Shaquille McDonald’s 90th minute goal sealed a crucial 1-0 win for FC Halifax Town over Southport, as The Shaymen climbed out of the relegation zone and up to 19th.
In an even Lancashire versus Yorkshire clash it looked like Town had just about done enough to claim a hard-earned point away from home, but McDonald’s dramatic winner ensured a vital three points to lift The Shaymen above both Altrincham and Boreham Wood.
Since the 2-2 draw at The Shay back in September, both teams have made significant progress, with Dino Maamria claiming eight wins in his first 10 games to guide The Sandgrounders clear of the drop zone, while a 13-game unbeaten run under Jim Harvey has given Town renewed hope.
Town headed into the match as the only side in the division to have conceded more home goals than Southport, who themselves had only scored once in their previous three games at Haig Avenue. Just six points separated the two clubs in the league before kick-off.
With Tommy Miller standing in for the absent Harvey, The Shaymen made just the single change to the side that started in midweek, with Connor Hughes coming in for Richard Peniket, as Town reverted to a 5-4-1 formation.
The hosts began brightly, with Hamza Bencherif needing to be alert in order to block Gary Jones volley from the edge of the area. Town created a first chance of their own when Scott McManus’ free-kick found the head of Jordan Burrow - looking for his first away goal since October - but he could only header wide.
Captain Nicky Wroe saw his first time low strike saved by Max Crocombe, before Steven Hewitt send a curling effort just wide of Sam Johnson’s far post. The lively Adam Blakeman then flashed an effort off-target in what was a frantic end-to-end opening 15 minutes.
The Shaymen pilled on the pressure at the half-hour mark, as Burrow’s header caused a panic for Crocombe, while Wroe’s follow up was well blocked.
The ball broke for Bencherif who beat Crocombe, but he failed to capitalise on a golden opportunity, miss-hitting a shot on the turn with the goal gaping.
Blakeman weaved his way to the edge of the box but blazed over with his right-foot as the half drew to a close with the score level.
Following the break, Town were at sixes and sevens and struggled to get out of their half early on, as The Sandgrounders incessant pressure caused initial panic to The Shaymen’s defence, but failed to threaten Johnson’s goal.
Southport’s eighth corner of the game forced Burrow to scramble clear, before Wroe's fierce left-footed drive was confidently held by Crocombe.
At the hour mark Dino Maamria introduced former Portsmouth striker Craig Westcarr for his debut, in place of ex-Town man Andy Bishop.
After a spell of domination from the home side, The Shaymen began to grow as the half wore on. Roberts burst into the area but his wayward cross evaded everyone in white. Andrew Wright then failed to connect with his effort from the edge of the area, an attempt which reflected the scrappy nature of the match.
In a rare attack for Town, Wroe burst forward and found substitute Josh Macdonald, who volleyed narrowly over the bar. A good save from Johnson denied Rutherford's strong header, before the ‘keeper was equal to Westcarr’s strike to keep the scores level.
Shaq McDonald was introduced in place of Wroe with under 20 minutes remaining, as James took over the captain’s armband.
James Bolton blocked Westcarr's effort before Rutherford fired over. Peniket charged through on goal in the closing minutes but got his feet mixed up at the vital moment, as all hopes of a Town win seemed to be dashed.
Three minutes were added on with the game looking destined to finish all square, but McDonald popped up in the area and swept home his third goal for The Shaymen with a cool finish to send the away end into raptures.