Elliot Styles scored a last-gasp winner as AFC Hornchurch beat Ashford Town 1-0 in the Ryman Premier Division at Bridge Avenue.
It was the Urchins 10th home league win of the season that sees them move up to 7th in the table, three points adrift of a playoff place.
And despite a lethargic opening 45 from both teams, it was Hornchurch who looked the most likely to conjure up a smash-and-grab victory in the closing stages.
The first opportunity of the match fell to the Urchins, when Styles latched onto Billy Coyne’s long throw-in, only to head across the face of goal.
A quarter of an hour gone, and the away side had their first attempt on goal – albeit a wasteful one.
The lively Brian Haule gained possession inside the box, did well to neatly side-step Styles, yet somehow managed to slice his effort off target when under no pressure whatsoever.
Little width from either side saw the game become congested, as tackles and misplaced passes became increasingly frequent as opposed to chances at either end.
When the Urchins’ Mervin Abraham was put clean through by strike partner Ross Wall, Ashford’s goalkeeper, Craig Ross, came out the traps quickly and brave to thwart Abraham.
With a minute to go before the break, it was Abraham again who had a glorious chance to break the deadlock.
Sam Sloma did well to retrieve possession for the home side, and then swiftly played Abraham down the left. The striker made little work of skipping past a challenge from defender Russell Canderton, before having his strike strongly palmed away from Craig Ross, with his headed rebounded effort cleared.
The second half followed on from the first. The home team continued to press for that all important opener, whilst the away side were becoming increasingly frustrated by their own lack of power in the final third.
For all their tidy approach play and combative performance in the middle of the park, Ashford were lightweight once faced with a resolute Hornchurch defence.
Debutant Tommy Black almost scored on 53 minutes. The former Arsenal midfielder capped a fine team move by striking hard and low, only to be deflated by an in-form Craig Ross who got down early to tip the strike around the post.
But the home team always looked more dangerous from set pieces, and on 53 minutes, they thought they had taken the lead.
A Black inswinging free kick from the right found an unmarked Styles who headed emphatically past Cross. Only delight was quickly turned into despair, as the assistant referee ruled the goal out for offside.
Both Rickie Hayles and Michael Spencer had chances to score for the hosts, whilst Hornchurch ‘keeper Darren Behcet became another agitated spectator in the second as the game seemed to be finishing all square.
Deep into four minutes of injury time, up popped Urchins captain Styles to head home a Black corner kick to send the home team and their fans into pandemonium.