Priory Lane was alight with all the thrills, spills and excitement of non-league football at its most entertaining on Tuesday night as Eastbourne Borough kicked off their home campaign with a bang against Tonbridge Angels.
The Sports - so often the victim of a crushing last-gasp goal last season - demonstrated their fitness, self-belief and sheer determination to complete a stunning comeback and secure the three points that many fans were beginning to worry would just elude the team who deserved it most on the night.
And who can blame them? That feeling of frustration surrounding an unjust result is one the Borough faithful became a touch too familiar with last season and, as efforts rebounded off the woodwork or crawled agonisingly along the goal line, it seemed inevitable the same old story would repeat itself.
However, testiment to the progress Tommy Widdrington has made with his men, the script was re-written and superb strikes from Elliott Levy and Simon Johnson sealed the fairytale ending and extended Borough’s winning streak to eight matches since pre-season began.
The crowd - no less than 678 strong - all had smiles in place as they walked through the Priory Lane turnstiles but these were swiftly and surely wiped off as the visitors grabbed a sixth-minute goal against the early run of play.
Nathan Green’s free kick from wide on the touchline - given following a cheap foul by Gary Hart - soared high over an outstretched Craig Ross before being deflected in at the far post, Sonny Miles claiming the final touch.
The rest of the half passed without notable event. Borough, evidently rattled by the opening goal and slightly nervous with their touch, struggled to break down the muscle in Angels’ defence, while Tonbridge themselves, although shading possesion, failed to create much either.
The second half was a different story. Borough, playing with Lok up front, supported by Simon Johnson in the hole and Chris Shephard and Hart on the right and left wing respectively, dictated the play and it almost paid off as Johnson, fed by a fine ball from Hart, thundered a superb volley against the post.
Moments later, the Sports did get the ball in the net - Hart bumbling it over the line after former Sport Clark Masters failed to keep hold of Frankie Raymond’s inswinging corner.
However, the referee - certainly not a friend of the Borough faithful on the night - ruled out the goal for a foul on the ‘keeper.
The Sports kept their foot on the gas, despite the best efforts of a physical Angles side who certainly did not live up to their name on the night, picking up five cautions amid many claims for a red from the crowd.
However, one could say justice was served as Borough bagged themselves the inevitable equaliser. Tonbridge failed to clear a Raymond delivery, allowing Levy to thunder the ball into the back of the net - the second instance in two games in which he’s made an impact from the subsitutes bench.
With ten minutes left on the clock, the game wasn’t over yet. A brilliantly entertaining conclusion saw nail-biting moments for both sides. Shephard’s effort was fumbled by Masters and Lok squeezed the ball around the ‘keeper, only for it to roll across the face of goal and harmlessly out of play, before Craig Ross was called into action to deny Mikel Suarez at the other end.
Then the moment came. Pumped with adrenalin and excitment, Borough pressed forward.
Matt Aldred tore down the right wing, dodging weary tackles from a desperate Tonbridge defence, before squaring the ball to a waiting Johnson, who kept his calm to slot home the winner.
The celebrations on and off the field were mirrored in the dugout and ‘fortress’ Priory Lane was rocking like it hasn’t done for a considerable while.
And, if that match is anything to go by, it could be a rollercoaster ride of a season for the Sports but one hopefully filled with a lot more ups than downs.
Borough: Ross 7, Tallack 8, Cole 8 (Gorman, 70), Aldred 7, Simpemba 7, Watts 7, Hart 7 (Levvy, 61), Raymon d7, Lok 8, Johnson 8, Shepahrd 8.
Referee: Mr. N. Lugg