Godmanchester Rovers pulled off a dramatic Hunts Senior Cup giantkilling on Tuesday night.
The Step 5 side triumphed 5-3 on penalties at higher-level St Ives Town in a quarter-final clash following a 3-3 deadlock with the teams trading six goals in a breathless second half at Westwood Road.
Stand-in goalkeeper Sam Palmer - the club’s physio - proved to be the Rovers hero with a crucial save to keep out Saints man Munashe Sundire in the shoot-out with all five Godmanchester men tucking away with their attempts.
Rovers had earlier roared into a three-goal advantage only to see it wiped out as Saints mounted a rousing fightback in the final quarter of an hour.
Manager Ollie Drake said: “We’ve beaten a team who played two levels higher and that is something we can all be very proud about.
“We almost did it at Hitchin in the FA Cup earlier in the season before running out of steam in the last few minutes.
“That happened again in some ways in this game, but we managed to get to penalties and our boys took five great spot-kicks once there.
“And I have to give a special mention to Sam who stepped in and pulled off a great save from the first St Ives penalty.
“The disappointing thing is that we didn’t win the game 3-0, but we got there in end!”
The two sides served up a low-key opening half in which chances were at a premium, but the game exploded into life only seconds after half-time.
A fine Matty Allan strike gave Rovers a lead which was doubled when Jack Chandler displayed the quickest reactions after Joe Furness thumped a long-range free kick against the bar.
And Rovers looked to be home and hosed when Austen Diaper raced onto a long clearance and squeezed a shot past returning Saints goalkeeper Tim Trebes at his near post.
But, to their credit, struggling Saints refused to wave the white flag and mounted a fine comeback launched by Robbie Parker’s penalty with a quarter-of-an-hour to go after Chris Hyem was somewhat harshly adjudged to have handled a shot from substitute Jordan Patrick in a crowded penalty area.
If that spot-kick gave Saints hope of dragging themselves level, a deflected Sundire shot from 20 yards with six minutes to go provided serious belief.
And the comeback was completed as the clock ticked into the 90th minute as a hopeful cross-shot from Ollie Snaith curled in.
Unbelievably Saints then missed a good chance to claim victory with Danny Kelly (a striker occasionally used as a defender, but actually deployed in midfield in this game) side-footed wide from a corner.
But it was Rovers who prevailed on penalties with Furness, Tom Spark, Buster Harradine, Charlie Bowen and Ross Munro all finding the net while Palmer, only playing due to regular number one Niall Conroy missing the game following a family bereavement, kept out Saints’ first effort from Sundire.
Rovers now advance to a semi-final date against Eynesbury (Yaxley face St Neots in the other last-four clash) while St Ives boss Ricky Marheineke was determined to take positives from their exit.
He said: “We stressed to the lads that it was important not to lose this game, but we were 3-0 down and dead and buried with 15 minutes to go.
“The way we dragged ourselves back into it answered a lot of the questions I’ve had about the commitment and the desire of the players.
“It was great to see us get level but we should also have scored a fourth goal to win as we had the chances in that final period when on top.
“The fact we were beaten on penalties in the end doesn’t really worry me and I’m going to focus on the positives.”
Saints goalkeeper Sam Wilson has been recalled from his loan spell by League Two club Mansfield Town. Marheineke expects to sign a new goalkeeper this week.