Shaquille McDonald’s 90th minute goal earned FC Halifax Town what could be a precious three points as they won 1-0 at Southport.
His dramatic winner lifted Town out of the relegation zone and capped a great week for the club after they reached the semi-finals of the FA Trophy for the first time in their history on Wednesday.
It was back to the grind of a relegation battle after the Lord Mayor’s Show of that titanic Trophy tussle at Gateshead, and the game could not have been more of a contrast to that remarkable cup-tie.
Tommy Miller took charge of the team in the absence of Jim Harvey, apparently barred from the game due to his actions during the game against Forest Green at The Shay.
The Shaymen appeared to be heading for a dull goalless draw until McDonald, like he did at Gateshead, drove the ball in left-footed from the edge of the box in the game’s only true moment of quality.
How important this win is will only become clear at the end of the season, but given the lateness of the goal and how unlikely a goal of any sort looked for either team, the boost it could give the Town side could be equally as significant in their battle for survival.
Southport began fairly brightly, perhaps sensing a touch of fatigue from Town’s exertions on Wednesday, and attacked with purpose as Steven Hewitt and Adam Blakeman both drove the ball narrowly wide.
A few dangerous crosses set the nerves jangling in the Town rear guard, who were under more pressure than the hosts’ defence, which was up against lone frontman Jordan Burrow.
With extra-time in midweek and a packed fixture list to come, there seemed a logic behind Halifax’s 5-4-1 formation as the visitors allowed Southport to attack and looked to hit them on the break rather than making the running themselves.
The Southport starting line-up only had 11 league goals between them this season, and it showed as what they had in enthusiasm and effort they lacked in guile and creativity.
It was a similar story with Jake Hibbs, who started in an advanced midfield role and got into some good positions, especially when he led a counter-attack from a Southport corner, but he chose the wrong pass and the chance went.
The ball the broke for Hamza Bencherif in the box amid a scramble, but the defender missed his kick with the keeper out of position; there was no lack of effort on show but this was no 3-3 thriller.
Southport seemed to get worse as the first-half dragged on, and it did drag as both teams got bogged down in a frustrating cycle of losing possession and knocking hopeful passes to their sparsely-populated final thirds.
Gateshead had clearly been the feast before the famine.
Soiuthport began the second-half with the same purpose from the beginning of the first, causing a few moments of panic in the Town defence but failing to test Sam Johnson.
With little else to cheer about, the 360 Town fans broke into a chorus of “We’re Going To Wembley”.
A rare shot on goal came after an hour as Nicky Wroe darted past a challenge before his low drive was held by the virtual spectator Max Crocombe in the Southport goal.
Josh Macdonald volleyed over after Wroe had led a charge up-field, then Paul Rutherford saw his header held by Johnson as a football match briefly threatened to break out.
But late drama is becoming Town’s speciality, and for the second game running, a substitute came off the bench to decisive effect as Josh Macdonald’s cross was turned in by Shaquille McDonald in front of a delirious set of travelling Town fans.
Southport: Crocombe, Challoner (Ryan 90), O’Brien, Nolan, Hewitt (Grimshaw 75), Blakeman, Allen, Jones, Rutherford, Wright, Bishop (Westcarr 64). Subs not used: Viscosi, A Jones.
Shots on target: 7
Shots off target: 5
Halifax: Johnson, Bolton, Brown, Bencherif, Roberts, McManus, James, Wroe S McDonald 78), Hibbs, Hughes (J Macdonald 54), Burrow (Peniket 83). Subs not used: Porter, Walker.
Scorer: S McDonald (90)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 2
Town man of the match: Hamza Bencherif