By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe were seconds away from completing one of the biggest successes in their history, before a stoppage-time penalty earned Spennymoor a replay in the FA Cup preliminary qualifying round.
The Newtonians roared back from an early two-goal deficit to deservedly lead 3-2, thanks to goals from Danny Earl, Jamie Owens and Danny Lambert.
But with a place in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup within their grasp, Dan Mitton was dismissed as he gave away a penalty and Mark Davison rescued a rematch for the FA Vase winners from the spot.
Spennymoor were heavy favourites pre-game and appeared to have sewn up the tie in the first 30 minutes.
After Liam Henderson fired into the side-netting and Dan Molyneux blocked Wayne Phillips’ effort at point-blank range, Gavin Cogdon volleyed in the opener from Andrew Stephenson’s cross in the 18th minute.
Aycliffe almost fell further behind immediately, but Molyneux somehow pushed away Kallum Griffiths’ fizzing drive and then recovered to tip over Cogdon’s follow-up.
But the goalkeeper could do nothing about Keith Graydon’s second on the half-hour mark, as the Spennymoor man tucked in an effort off the inside of the post.
You would have received massive odds on anything other than an away win at that point, but this was the FA Cup, after all, and Aycliffe refused to lie down.
Danny Earl pulled a goal back two minutes later as he pounced on an error from visiting keeper Kyle Hayes and rolled the ball into an empty net.
Then on the stroke of half-time, Owens exchanged passes with Martin Young before curling in an unstoppable effort into Hayes’ top corner.
Spennymoor were shell-shocked, and their expensively-assembled side were on the backfoot in the second period.
Hayes brilliantly saved from Owens, as the former Shildon man went close to doubling his tally, but could do nothing about Aycliffe’s third.
Lambert raced half the length of the pitch, bursting clear of the Moors midfield, nutmegged the remaining defender and placed the ball underneath Hayes’ despairing dive.
It was a goal worthy of winning any game of football, but heartbreakingly for the Royal Blues there was a sour late twist.
Mitton, who had already been booked in the first period, received his marching orders after bringing down Cogdon in the area and Molyneux was sent the wrong way by a clinical Davison.
The teams will recommence battle on Tuesday night at Brewery Field, with the winners at home to Lancaster City in the next round.