Paul Malone was the last-gasp hero for Corby Town as they maintained their unbeaten start to the Southern League Premier Division season with a dramatic 3-2 win over Arlesey Town at Steel Park.
An entertaining game appeared to be heading for a draw until the third minute of stoppage-time when skipper Malone struck his second of the match from close-range.
The goal sparked some wild scenes of celebration as the Steelmen moved into second spot in the early standings, just off the top on goal difference behind Cambridge City.
Boss Tommy Wright made one change to the team that started the 0-0 draw at Cirencester Town with Connor Kennedy returning at left-back with Harry May dropping to the bench.
It proved to be a fairly low-key start with both sides struggling to keep the ball. But the game burst into life when the Steelmen took the lead on 16 minutes.
Lewis Jackson swung in a corner from the right, Akin Daramola got on the end of it at the far post and knocked it back across goal and it fell for Malone who made no mistake with a smart finish into the roof of the net.
That seemed to spark the Steelmen into their stride and they were so nearly 2-0 up just two minutes later. Greg Mills did well to play in Shane Byrne but the midfielder’s firm strike was well saved by Nick Thompson.
It proved a crucial moment as, just 60 seconds later, the visitors were level. And it came from an error from Kennedy who was caught out by Dean Mason. The frontman ran on and sent a low shot through the legs of Paul Walker.
It could and probably should have been better for Arlesey when the lively Mason got the better of Malone on the by-line. He pulled the ball back to Kelvin Bossman but his control let him down with just Walker to beat.
The Steelmen re-grouped and a wonderful pass from Wilson Carvalho sent Daramola into the right side of the penalty area. The midfielder turned one man and then forced Thompson to palm away a decent strike.
And the hosts had a very good shout for a penalty before the break when Carvalho was bundled over by Mark Gallagher but referee Guy Stretton waved away the appeals.
Like the first half, things were quiet at the start of the second period with Corby struggling to find a way through, despite enjoying plenty of possession.
And they were hit by a sucker-punch just before the hour mark. A long ball over the top saw Bossman and Edi Appleton in a race. Walker came from his goal to clear but could only smash it against his own defender to leave Bossman with the simple task of rolling the ball into an empty net.
But, just like the visitors in the first half, the Steelmen’s response was almost immediate. And what a goal it was.
Carvalho picked the ball just outside the area and jinked past a defender before curling a wonderful effort in off the post.
The Steelmen so nearly regained the lead just four minutes after the equaliser when a driving run from Mills ended with a low shot that was creeping in until Thompson intervened with a superb fingertip save, although it was one Mr Stretton missed as he somehow failed to award a corner to the hosts.
Wright threw himself into the fray for the final 12 minutes but, despite Corby putting the pressure on, the visitors almost snatched the points when Christian Tavernier headed over at the far post.
Thompson got away with one when he spilled a Ben Milnes shot at the other end but the drama was only just beginning.
As the game moved into the third minute of stoppage-time, the Steelmen won a free-kick on the right.
Jackson whipped it in, Thompson couldn’t hold it and there was skipper Malone to pick up the pieces and spark wild celebrations both on the pitch and on the terraces.
It remains early days of course. But it’s nights like these that can sometimes make a season.
Nonetheless, Corby remain unbeaten after the first four games. A terrific start that must now be built on over the bank holiday weekend.
Steelmen: Walker; Thomas, Malone, Appleton, Kennedy (sub May, h-t); Daramola, Byrne; Milnes, Carvalho (sub Wright, 78 mins), Jackson; Mills Subs: Crawford, Clarke, Weir-Daley.
Arlesey: Thompson; Maltay, Gough (sub McGovern, 70 mins), Gallagher, Sage; Boot, Bailey, Tavernier, Kabuye; Bossman (sub Foster, 85 mins), Mason. Subs not used: Tokarczyk, Musombo-Tambue, Seanla.
Referee: Guy Stretton.
Goals: Malone (16 mins, 1-0), Mason (19 mins, 1-1), Bossman (59 mins, 1-2), Carvalho (61 mins, 2-2), Malone (90 mins, 3-2).
Bookings: Maltay, Sage (both fouls).