FC Halifax Town kept their place at the top of the Conference Premier with an action-packed 3-2 win over Lincoln at the Shay.
An aggregate score of 6-4 to Halifax last season suggested there might be goals and the game didn’t disappoint.
A bumper crowd of 2,369, supplemented by 400-odd from Lincoln, were treated to a richly-entertaining contest as Town were made to battle to their fifth straight win of the season.
Defenders Marc Roberts and Steve Williams maintained the Town defence’s fantastic goal return, while Scott Boden notched his second in two games from the spot.
But that was only half the story as Lincoln played their part in a breathless game that featured more twists and turns than a Formula One race track.
Hamza Bencherif and Ben Tomlinson, like Boden from the spot, scored for the Imps, who created their fair share of chances but finished with 10-men.
Lincoln’s opener left a sense of shock around the Shay such was its unorthodox nature as Roberts’ clearance hit Bencherif and looped over Matt Glennon.
That prompted cries of ‘We Are Top Of The League’ by the Lincoln fans, the same song Town supporters had been barking out at Chester 48 hours earlier.
Steve Williams was only denied a quick equaliser by a fine reaction save by Nick Townsend to his bullet header.
Town’s response was positive enough to elicit a good reaction from the Shay crowd, who were almost cheering a James Bolton goal but for more excellent reflexes by Townsend.
Lincoln looked more resolute than Chester had on Saturday, with their array of six-foot-plus players meaning they often matched Town’s physical prowess; must be all those jelly babies they’re eating.
But Town still oozed confidence going forward, with Paul Marshall and Matt Pearson orchestrating most of their meaningful attacks.
From a Marshall free-kick, Townsend punched the ball against his own post in what would have been an equaliser full of poetic justice given Lincoln’s lucky opener, before goal-machine Roberts scrambled the ball in from close range.
For arguably the first time this season, Town had been posed a question and their answer was pretty emphatic.
Adam Smith led a lightning quick counter-attack before Lois Maynard’s shot was tipped wide and just out of Boden’s reach at the far post.
It looked like Lincoln would reach the sanctuary of their dressing room level at the break but from the last attack of the half, Pearson broke clear down the right before his cross was blocked, according to referee Ross Joyce, by the arm of Tony Diagne.
Not even the impressive Townsend could reach Boden’s penalty as Town assumed a thoroughly deserved lead.
The second-half nearly started as the first had ended but Townsend saved well after Boden had raced clear.
Minutes later, Lincoln were level after James Bolton’s foul on Ben Tomlinson, who sent his penalty into the same corner Boden had.
In the space of five minutes, Town had gone from potentially leading 3-1 to drawing 2-2.
It could have been worse had Jordan Burrows’ clever shot not come back off the bar shortly afterwards.
Slack marking then allowed too much time for a Lincoln cross, which Burrows should have buried at the far post but headed off target.
If Town’s reaction to falling behind was commendable, then so was Lincoln’s.
With the game finely balanced, either set of supporters could have been singing about topping the table come full-time.
But Bencherif’s dismissal, Lincoln’s second in two games and their second in consecutive visits to the Shay, for a second booking tipped the scales in Town’s favour.
It was now an engrossing contest with both defences looking edgy and both attacks capable of a decisive fifth goal.
Williams got it and his first for the club after an uncharacteristic error by Townsend after he dropped a corner.
Boden curled a superb effort just wide from 25 yards before, typically for such an entertaining contest, Lincoln then went up the other end and hit the post from a corner.
Jackson could have sealed it after tenaciously winning possession high up the pitch but Townsend saved well.
Tomlinson then raced clear for one last heart-stopping moment but dragged his shot just wide.
Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Williams, McManus, Smith (Schofield 54), Maynard, Marshall (Jackson 68), Pearson, Peniket, Boden. Subs not used: Senior, Ainge, K Roberts.
Scorers: Roberts (29), Boden (45), Williams (76)
Shots on target: 8
Shots off target: 7
Lincoln: Townsend, Newton, Bencherif, Diagne, Brown, Power (Ledsham 78), Mendy, Nolan (Marshall 78), Caprice, Tomlinson, Burrow (Kabba 84). Subs not used: Farman, Robinson.
Scorers: Bencherif (10), Tomlinson (50)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 7
Town man of the match: Steve Williams