Mark Shaw likened Worksop Town and Staveley Miners Welfare to a pair of boxers, after his Tigers side won 1-0 on Wednesday night.
Inkersall Road provided the battleground, the weather provided a dramatic backdrop and attritional conditions and the two sides slugged it out for the full 90 minutes.
When the final bell went, it was Worksop left standing, thanks to an own goal and a greater desire to take three points.
It wasn’t pretty at times, the second half in particular a scrappy and physical contest.
Referee Aaron Bannister was a busy man all night, but particularly in the early minutes, blowing for a remarkably high number of fouls, some of them no more than robust attempts to win the ball from both sides.
One decision that riled the Tigers fans behind the goal was a free-kick awarded to Staveley when Jono Wafula appeared to do little more than challenge for a high ball in the area, with keeper Steve Hernandez going down.
Neither side were able to create much of note in an even first 20 minutes, but Jahmal Smith brought things to life with a nice touch, run and shot that forced Jon Stewart into a save.
Jack Waddle then supplied a sublime through ball for Mitch Husbands to skip clear of the last man, taking the ball in on goal but being denied by a brave Hernandez.
There was nothing the Welfare stopper could do about Tom Elliott’s goalbound looping header after a great Tom Burgin cross, and a defender saved the day by clearing off the line.
Worksop’s pressure deserved a goal and on 31 minutes they got one – Conor Higginson’s fierce and inviting cross knocked into his own goal by full-back Brad Jones.
There was a sigh of relief from the visitors when the refeee decided that last defender Alex Pursehouse’s rugby tackle on Kurtis Morley did not warrant a penalty.
Each side came close with a speculative effort, Higginson with Worksop’s, hooking a volley over from distance, then Sam Finlaw’s near post ball was touched past the post by Stewart.
With the wind picking up and the rain driving down, conditions made life difficult for both sets of players after the break, and it wasn’t until Jack Poulton curled a lovely shot just wide of the mark that either side came close to a goal.
Jake Scott’s late tackle on Jones brought a meeting of the minds, players running in from all directions but not getting overly involved before the referee calmed things down and produced the yellow.
The Tigers captain lasted just six more minutes, limping off having played his part in a brutal and draining midfield battle, McCauley Shillito taking his place.
In one of the more baffling moments of the season, Elliott was barged down from behind in the area when he looked set to pull the trigger, and Staveley were awarded a free-kick.
Worksop dug in in the final minutes and did what they couldn’t do against Tadcaster earlier in the season, securing the three points and sutting out a desperate opponent.
All that remained was for Staveley’s Michael Trench to lose his head, and Kyle Jordan to shove him a good five yards, both seeing yellow when reds could have come out.
And a sizeable, vocal Worksop Town support were able to celebrate an impressive win against opponents who had not tasted defeat since 7th October.
Worksop sit third in the NCEL table, eight points behind leaders Tadcaster but with two games in hand, and will go into Saturday’s big FA Vase tie on the back of two big wins.
Staveley: Hernandez, Jones, Trench, Goodwin, Fisher, Magee, Wall (Watts 58), Finlaw (Watters 89), Smith, Morley (Eagers 78), Poulton. Not used: Pugh, Butt.
Worksop: Stewart 7, Wafula 7, Smythe 7, Pursehouse 7, Liversidge 7, BURGIN 8, Elliott 7 (Hawkins 89), Scott 7 (Shillito 72), Husbands 7, Higginson 7 (Jordan 90), Waddle 7. Not used: Lannaman, Whincop, Hawkins.
Referee: Aaron Bannister. Assistants: Samuel Barrott, Gary Myers.
Goalscorers: Jones own goal 31
Yellows: Goodwin 84, Trench 90; Elliott 18, Scott 66, Jordan 90, Husbands 90