1874 Northwich ended their wait to defend a Macron Cup title they claimed initially almost two years earlier as they overwhelmed Runcorn Town on Saturday.
The team managed by Paul Bowyer and Wayne Goodison will argue it was worth it too after they became the first club to win successive editions of North West Counties League’s premier knockout competition.
Indeed Winsford United, back in March 2018, were the last opponent to eliminate them.
Curiously, one of Blues’ goal scorers that night, Callum Gardner, was on target at the Viridor Community Stadium – this time wearing green.
By then, the former Premier Division rivals had traded blows in a 60-second spell.
Scott McGowan swept in the game’s opener in the eighth minute, applying a finishing touch to Jake Parker’s measured cutback.
But Runcorn, stung, restored parity straight from the restart when Craig Cairns’ lightning reaction saw him reach a pass clipped behind the visitors’ defence before shooting low inside the near post.
It lifted Paul McManus’ men, and Ryan Cox curved an attempt narrowly wide after Cairns had teed him up.
Momentum shifted to and fro, and at the other end goalkeeper Adam Reid was alert to save to his right after Lucas Weir wriggled past two attempted tackles and into a shooting space.
However, he could not reach Gardner’s perfectly-placed shot on 21 minutes, the winger restoring Northwich’s lead after taming Lee Jackson’s deep cross at the back post and cutting inside onto his left foot.
Shaun Weaver, an early replacement for Joe Holt after he sustained an injury, went closest to claiming a second equaliser for Town when his header from Cox’s corner bounced the wrong side of an upright.
The home team did level five minutes after the interval, Ben Greenop pouncing to prod a loose ball into the net after 1874 number one Tony Aghayere had parried a shot into his path.
Reid contorted his body to paw clear McGowan’s deflected effort as Northwich responded, and Runcorn’s custodian was similarly alert to keep out Matthew Woolley’s header from Weir’s corner.
McGowan, ever alert, snaffled the rebound though to make it 3-2.
One of the contest’s defining moments followed on 72 minutes when Weaver, cautioned in the opening period for scything down Taylor Kennerley, suffered the same fate following a clumsy foul on Woolley.
Booked a second time by referee David Critchlow, he left his teammates to play out the remainder a man short.
They paid a heavy price.
Gardner’s attempt flashed past the post after Harry Cain, introduced at the interval in place of Lee Jackson, laid off.
1874 did not relent though, and Jake Parker’s centre was turned past Reid by an unlucky John Shaw – conscious McGowan was right behind him.
Reid thwarted Cain, but he was beaten again with four minutes left at the end of a stunning counter attack led by substitute Sam Hare.
He waited until precisely the right moment to invite Joe Woolley, running on his outside, to angle a smart finish into the far corner to make it 5-2.
Cairns was Johnny on the spot again though on 88 minutes, replicating Greenop’s feat in jabbing a rebound past Aghayere after the goalkeeper diverted Tom Ruffer’s shot his way.
It was perhaps fitting that McGowan, the visitors’ all-time leading scorer and back at the club following a brief stay with Nantwich Town, should have the final say.
After Cain had skipped away from Ellis Jones, he picked out the striker.
Still with plenty to do, he chipped the ball deftly inside the far post to complete his hat-trick.
Our thanks to Andrew Simpson for the above match report. You can find him on Twitter @Simmo_on_sport