FC Halifax Town booked their place in the Blue Square North play-off final with a superb 2-0 victory at Guiseley.
Second-half goals by Alex Johnson and Lee Gregory sealed a thoroughly deserved win for the Shaymen as they overpowered their hosts and moved to within one game of a return to the Conference Premier.
The concern among some Town fans before the match was that Town may have missed their chance in the first-leg to book their place in the final, but far from it as the Shaymen grabbed their opportunity with both hands by muting the Lions’ roar with a confident and composed performance.
Neil Aspin’s main pre-match dilemma concerned the replacement for the injured Chris Worsley, with Liam Needham getting the nod ahead of Jon Worthington, who was joined on the bench by Adriano Moke after his recovery from a thigh injury.
Aside from a cricket match taking place on the adjacent pitch, all eyes were on the West Yorkshire derby, with barely standing room only as every nook and cranny at Nethermoore was packed with supporters.
Such was Town’s vocal backing that the throat lozenges were probably being passed around among the visiting supporters a few minutes after kick-off, but they were nearly given something to really cheer about after a fairly cagey first 20 minutes.
Amid a promising spell for the Shaymen, Liam Hogan almost capped an impressive start to the game as he rose majestically to meet a corner, only for ex-Town man Aaron Hardy to clear the header off the line.
There were certainly fewer chances being created than on Tuesday night, but the referee was just as involved as the man in the middle at the Shay had been.
Andy Pearson’s booking mid-way through the firt-half was evened up by Hogan’s yellow card a few minutes before the break when he pulled back Josh Wilson as he was cutting in on goal from the left, although the home supporters were left appealing for a red.
There was plenty of effort on show, especially from youngsters Matt Pearson and Alex Johnson, who again sprinted over every inch of grass they could carry themselves, but top-scorers Lee Gregory and Josh Wilson not given a sniff in either box as both defences proved pretty watertight.
But the visitors raced out of the blocks in the second-half to edge ahead when space suddenly opened up for Pearson from a cross-field pass before he kept his composure and squared the ball to Johnson, who tapped in.
The celebrations that greeted the goal could only be described as barely-contained euphoria as the massed ranks behind the goal and the Town bench threw their collective arms in the air as the deadlock was broken.
Town looked the more assured side and were enjoying far more possession than their hosts as they threatened to double their lead on the hour mark when Gregory latched on to a long through ball and prodded the ball past Steve Drench, but Matt Wilson charged back to clear off the line.
Gregory then headed over in front of goal from eight yards out after McManus’ beautifully flighted cross as the second goal Town’s play deserved continued to elude them.
They were so nearly punished soon afterwards when James Walshaw got a brief sight of goal but his shot was deflected just wide as the Shaymen survived their first, but as it turned out, only heart-in-mouth moment.
The much-anticipated Guiseley fightback never materialised as the hosts struggled to work themselves back into the game.
Town continued to look the much more potent side and sealed the win in style as Gregory’s tireless running won him the ball near the left touchline before he unleashed a wonderful curling shot that flew magnificently into the top corner out of Drench’s reach.
The last flicker of hope for the hosts came and went when Walshaw inexplicably side-footed Hardy’s cross wide with the goal gaping eight yards out.
Matt Glennon then produced a superb reaction save at point-blank range as Town survived a late goalmouth scramble, but it was too little too late from the hosts as Town came out on top in the Lions’ den.
Guiseley: Drench, Hardy, Meynell, Pearson, Ellis (Carole 75), Matt Wilson, Rea, Holdsworth, Josh Wilson, Walshaw, Rothery. Subs not used: Bower, Lawlor, Marsh, Giles.
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 3
Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, McManus, Hogan, Pearson, Lowe, Needham, Williams, Johnson, Gardner (Seddon 71), Gregory. Subs not used: Senior, Worthington, Bolton, Moke.
Scorers: Johnson (52), Gregory (83)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 5
Man of the match: Alex Johnson