Shaquille McDonald scored a priceless goal to lift FC Halifax Town out of the relegation zone with one game to go as they beat Forest Green Rovers 1-0.
Like against Eastleigh on Tuesday, The Shaymen were the better side against a promotion-chasing opponent, but this time, they got what they deserved thanks to McDonald’s 70th minute goal.
Although one eye was on The New Lawn, the other was on Boreham Wood’s crunch clash with Guiseley.
And with Boreham Wood and Town both winning, Halifax’s fate is now in their own hands going into the last day - match or better Guiseley’s result and Town will stay up.
Who would have thought that when Jim Harvey was appointed following Town’s 6-3 thrashing by Braintree back in November?
With second place virtually assured, Forest Green made six changes and left four regular first-teamers out of their side, with striker Kieffer Moore lining-up as a makeshift centre-back.
The return of Hamza Bencherif gave Town’s defence a more recognisable face, with the visitors deploying a 3-4-3 formation and crafting an early effort when Kingsley James fired over left-footed after a neat one-two with Jake Hibbs.
Some nervy defending from the visitors, despite Forest Green’s rather toothless early attacks, then preceded Richard Peniket’s well-struck drive being kept out at his near post by Steve Arnold.
Town had switched to 4-4-2 by the time a scramble in the box resulted in Anthony Jeffrey’s cut-back being cleared by Hibbs, although the hosts were yet to kick into gear after a slow start.
Josh Macdonald’s superb lofted pass forced a corner for Halifax, from which James Bolton and Peniket both had shots blocked.
Forest Green’s end-of-season awards dinner was following the match, and it was in no danger of making a late entry for the game of the season category, but thirty minutes in and Town were doing alright; the only snag being Boreham Wood’s goal against Guiseley, which only enhanced the importance of a Town goal.
Brett Williams should have doubled the blow for Town after producing an outstanding piece of control to cushion a high pass but dragged his shot wide of the near post one-on-one.
But other than Williams’ effort, the odd flash of skill by England C striker Kurtis Guthrie or some dangerous crosses through the box was all that Rovers had offered to suggest they had been title-challengers most of the season, with the only efforts on target in the opening half coming from Halifax.
Bencherif’s return only lasted 40 minutes, presumably due to a recurrence of his groin injury, and forced Halifax into another readjustment as Shaquille McDonald came on and Hibbs moved to right-back.
Both sides had been forced back to the drawing board in the openng-half, with Peniket also suffering what was feared to be, but hopefully wasn’t, a serious injury in stoppage time and was replaced by Connor Hughes, although the hosts had to make three enforced alterations before half-time due to injuries.
An encouraging half for The Shaymen was almost capped with a goal but Nicky Wroe’s curling shot from 20 yards landed on the roof of the net, prompting the Town fans at the opposite end of the ground into a mistaken cheer.
It was the Rovers fans wrongly celebrating a goal after the restart when Jon Parkin was flagged offside from Marcus Kelly’s free-kick, although it appeared to have been headed in by a Town defender.
Jim Harvey said his side needed some luck before the game and perhaps his had just changed.
Jordan Burrow then prodded the ball wide from 12 yards after Hughes’s shot was blocked by Charlie Clough as the game threatened to open up, with Town leaving more players unfield but leaving themselves more exposed as a result.
Parkin wasted a chance that would have counted when he scooped his shot over the bar from six yards after Elliott Frear’s cut-back.
One glance at the table was all it took to see how precious a Town goal would be, and Shaquille McDonald provided it when a corner was diverted into his path three yards out by Danny Hattersley, lifting Halifax above Guiseley in the table and putting their heads back above water.
We Are Staying Up sang the Town fans, which suddenly sounded more in expectation than hope.
While Halifax had got better since the restart, Forest Green had gone downhill and were displaying the urgency of a side reserving their energy for the play-offs.
Guthrie should have levelled in the 82nd minute after jinking into the box following Arnold’s long kick forward, but skied his shot when one-on-one with Sam Johnson.
Jim Harvey paced the technical area restlessly as the clock gradually, slowly, agonisingly ticked down, with James Jennings shot deflected into the arms of Johnson from 30 yards; Town’s luck was still holding out.
Rovers’ lack of ideas was then summed up when Moore went for goal from 35 yards and ended up clearing the stand, prompting cries of derision from the home supporters.
Forest Green: Arnold, Clough, Bennett (Jennings 45), Jefford, Jeffrey (Frear 45), Guthrie, Moore, Wedgbury (Pipe 39), Kelly, Parkin, Williams. Subs not used: Eve, Marsh-Brown.
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 7
Halifax: Johnson, Bolton, Roberts, McManus, Hibbs, Bencherif (S McDonald 39), James, Wroe, J Macdonald (Hattersley 69), Peniket (Hughes 45), Burrow. Subs not used: Porter, Fairhurst.
Scorer: S McDonald (70)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 6
Town man of the match: James Bolton