A last-gasp winner saw Battersea Dogs avoid the drop in one of the greatest survival stories the Southern Sunday Football League has ever seen.
Battersea beat Sporting Crabs 3-2 in a fiery encounter at Peckham Rye Common on Sunday, having come from behind twice to secure the three points in the 92nd minute.
The side went into the New Year rooted to the bottom of Division Two having picked up only one point in their opening nine games.
But a remarkable run of five wins in seven games saw Battersea rise to fifth in the table and secure their place in the division for next season.
The historic victory also came on club legend Gary Wild’s final appearance, who praised the performance as “one of the great games” in a decades-long career.
Battersea started the game well, with Josiah Norman testing Crabs’ keeper with a low drive early on, but it was Crabs who struck the first blow.
A killer through ball carved open the Battersea defence to allow Crabs to take a 1-0 lead, leaving the Dogs needing two goals for any chance of survival.
The first of those came through Christopher Asamoah, who slammed home from a corner five minutes before half time.
Dogs continued to press after the break, but were dealt what seemed like the killer blow when the referee pointed to the spot following an Asamoah handball.
Crabs duly dispatched with only 15 minutes left on the clock for Battersea to find two goals. The response was immediate.
A lofted ball over the top saw a Crabs defender return the favour with a clumsy handball, and captain Toby Wakefield stepped up from the spot.
Despite a dubious penalty record for the season, Wakefield buried low into the bottom right corner to give Battersea hope with the clock running out.
Tempers quickly started to flare as Dogs pressed for the winner, with the referee having to keep Christian Paul “the brand” in check and yellow cards shown to both sides.
Then came the winner.
Timothy Greenhalgh worked well down the line to cross low to Jon Mitchell, whose scuffed effort was somehow fumbled over the line by the Crabs keeper in the 92nd minute.
Wild celebrations were only furthered on the fulltime whistle when the news came through that Wig Army could only manage a 2-2 draw against Lokomotiv Wimbledon.
The result meant Battersea Dogs had completed one of the all-time great survival comebacks, and will go into next season optimistic of a promotion push.
- To view the full table visit thefa.com