Hednesford Town lost ground on league leaders North Ferriby as The Pitmen’s defence collapsed in the second half once centre-back Francino Francis saw red for a second bookable offence on sixty-eight minutes.
Local rivals Rushall Olympic scored three goals without reply to win a hugely entertaining match 4-3.
The Pitmen, looking to build on their 1-0 win against Stafford Rangers on Boxing Day, opened the scoring with yet another successful Elliott Durrell penalty kick after Jamey Osborne was felled in the area on eight minutes.
Rushall had threatened before the opening goal with Dave Walker shooting wide, but The Pics were hit superbly on the counter attack on 21 minutes when Hednesford doubled their lead with an outstanding move.
Osborne won the ball strongly in midfield and released Aaron Rey down the right channel who quickly advanced towards goal and measured a perfect cross to the feet of Neil Harvey to finish.
The away side lacked bite up front in the first 45 minutes with only Ahmed Obeng looking threatening, but that was all to change in the second period as The Pitmen’s shape was affected by first half injuries to both Osborne and Dave MacPherson.
Wayne Daniel got his team’s first goal back on 52 minutes when he powered in an unmarked header from a corner, but this goal seemed to spark The Pitmen back into life and they duly restored their two-goal cushion on 55 minutes with Ben Bailey heading in a superb Nathan Woolfe free-kick.
Obeng missed a golden opportunity on 65 minutes when Francis misjudged a ball over the top but three minutes later Obeng was involved again as Francis tripped the striker who was clean through and he received his marching orders.
Substitute Joel Purkiss swept in a free-kick from 20 yards to score Rushall’s second on 70 minutes and Sam Barnes inexplicably missed a through ball to let in Dave Walker to equalise just sixty seconds later.
Walker could have scored a fourth but volleyed over when under pressure by Ben Bailey, but in a real end-to-end thriller Hednesford almost forced an unlikely winner when Rey controlled the ball on the edge of the area and brilliantly shot with an overhead kick which was saved well by Chris Gemmell.
Gemmell punched the ball clear from under his crossbar from Durrell’s resulting corner, but as the game entered its final frenetic conclusion Steve Dickinson, deputising for the suspended Dan Crane in Hednesford’s goal, saved well from Obeng.
With the clock on 93 minutes the final action silenced Keys Park when Obeng and Andre Landell combined to set up Walker who scored a dramatic winner for The Pics.
The result will undoubtedly frustrate The Pitmen, but they have a perfect opportunity to recover when Hednesford welcome Chorley to Keys Park on Saturday in what, with North Ferriby winning against Blyth Spartans to go seven points clear, is a ‘must-win’ game.
Dickinson, Melbourne, Campion (c), Bailey (55), Francis, MacPherson (Disney 29), Osborne (Lennon 35), Durrell (8, pen), Harvey (21), Rey, Woolfe (Barnes 69),
Subs Not Used
Gemmell, Haynes, Beckett, Caines, Daniel (c) (52), Craddock, Stephens (Landell 46), Bragoli, Walker (71, 93), Obeng, Bottomer (Purkiss 67 (70)),
Subs Not Used
Clarke, Tolley, Islam,
Bookings – Melbourne, Bailey, Francis, Durrell, Craddock
Sent Off – Francis
Attendance – 698
Star Man – Wayne Daniel