A fantastic second-half performance from Grimsby Town saw them come from a goal down to beat National League leaders Stockport County at Blundell Park.
The visitors took the lead through Scott Quigley and went on to dominate the first half but were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Antoni Sarcevic was shown a straight red card for a poor challenge on Michee Efete.
A more defensive mindset from the away side after half-time invited pressure from the Mariners and they took full advantage, with John McAtee levelling the scores before Gavan Holohan completed the turnaround.
That sparked celebrations among the home fans in a season’s best crowd of 7,818 as Town saw out the remainder of the game to end Stockport’s long unbeaten run and send out another big message to the rest of their promotion rivals.
Two changes were made to the Grimsby starting XI after last week’s goalless draw at Weymouth, with Efete returning from injury to replace Jordan Cropper and Sean Scannell preferred to Jordan Maguire-Drew.
Max Crocombe started in goal behind a back four of Efete, Andy Smith, Luke Waterfall and Danny Amos, while Harry Clifton, Holohan, Joey Jones and Scannell were the midfielders and McAtee lined up behind Ryan Taylor in attack.
Maguire-Drew was given a place on the bench, where he was joined by Shaun Pearson, Ben Fox, Tristan Abrahams and Emmanuel Dieseruvwe.
Stockport made the journey east looking to take another big step towards securing automatic promotion to League Two and boasting that proud record showing only one league defeat since October.
Manager Dave Challinor named an unchanged team after a 5-0 victory over Southend last time out and would look to strikers Paddy Madden and Quigley to fire his side to another win.
The game kicked off amid a great atmosphere and Stockport were first to attack, with Myles Hippolyte getting some space on the left before passing to Madden, who failed to control the ball.
A Town free kick from Scannell was headed clear, before a long goal kick by Stockport keeper Ben Hinchliffe was safely headed back to Crocombe as Waterfall got to the ball ahead of Madden.
Clifton saw a shot blocked soon afterwards, before a handball by Liam Hogan gave the Mariners a free kick in a promising position to the left of the away penalty area. Amos’ chip from it led to the first corner of the afternoon but Scannell’s ball from the flag was headed clear.
A corner came at the other end on eight minutes but Waterfall was in the right place to head it away, then Hogan powered a header over the bar after the ball was sent back into the box.
A penalty appeal came from the visitors after Quigley appeared to get in front of Waterfall before going down under a challenge from the defender, although the referee waved the claims away and play continued.
The visitors took the lead with their next attack though, as the ball was played into the box by Hippolyte from the left and after Madden backheeled it into the path of QUIGLEY, he did the rest by slotting past Crocombe.
A foul on Sam Minihan gave Stockport a free kick in a dangerous position on the right on 17 minutes but Sarcevic’s ball from it was diverted wide for a goal kick.
Town were yet to get a foothold in the game as the 20-minute mark passed and Smith had to be alert to beat Quigley to a ball into the box as Stockport created another opening.
Hippolyte fired a low shot at Crocombe on 23 minutes as the visitors went forward again, before a corner from the away left was headed clear by Waterfall and the loose ball was fired over the bar by Sarcevic from 25 yards.
Efete lost control of the ball on a run through the middle, then McAtee could only pull it back to Hinchliffe from the left as the Mariners, for the first time, started to get spells of possession in the Stockport half.
Hippolyte was shown the first yellow card of the game on 28 minutes for bringing Efete down but Scannell’s free kick from the right was comfortably cleared.
But the momentum was still with the away side and only a vital interception by Efete stopped Quigley from having an opportunity to make it 2-0 with a header, before Will Collar arrowed a shot straight at Crocombe from the edge of the box.
A foul on Holohan earned Ryan Croasdale a yellow card on 34 minutes and soon afterwards, Stockport were reduced to 10 men when Sarcevic was shown a straight red card for a poor challenge on Efete near the touchline on the Grimsby right. Hogan was also booked in the aftermath.
Another flashpoint came three minutes later when Amos was booked for a foul on Minihan near the dug-outs. Collar’s free kick was eventually claimed by Crocombe after the ball was headed up into the air.
A McAtee run through the middle was brought to a halt by defender Ash Palmer, before a ball over the top from Holohan proved just too far ahead of McAtee and it was gathered by Hinchliffe.
Minihan won a corner on the Stockport left on 44 minutes but Johnson could only divert Hippolyte’s delivery through to Crocombe.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the half and a foul by Jones on Quigley gave the away side a free kick on the halfway line but it came to nothing.
Taylor did well to win the ball in the air and head it down towards McAtee as Town aimed to create an opening before half-time but he was unable to get it under control and a goal kick was the result.
That meant the 10 men held a one-goal advantage after a half which they had controlled, although the Mariners would hope their extra man would help with their bid to get back into the contest after the break.
Mark Kitching replaced Quigley for the visitors before the restart as they switched to a back four and Town had the first opening six minutes in when a shot by Efete was blocked by keeper Hinchliffe, before Holohan fired wide seconds later.
A Scannell cross was cleared after a handball shout from the Pontoon Stand, then Clifton could only find Hinchliffe as he pulled the ball back from the left as the Mariners started to show more promising signs.
Ollie Crankshaw came on in place of Hippolyte in the away side’s second change on 56 minutes.
Hogan had to head over his own bar after Scannell chipped a cross over from the right but Amos’ corner was headed away at the near post as far as Clifton, who blasted wide from 25 yards.
Maguire-Drew replaced Clifton in Town’ first substitution on the hour, with the hosts still struggling to create clear-cut chances despite having more of the ball.
But that all changed on 64 minutes as the Mariners grabbed an equaliser. After a slick attacking move, Taylor’s flick sent McATEE away through the middle and he cut further inside before creating an opening and keeping his composure to slot past Hinchliffe.
A McAtee cross was headed away by Palmer as Town attacked again, with the home side now on top and pushing their visitors back.
A foul on Scannell gave the Mariners a free kick on the left on 75 minutes but Maguire-Drew’s ball was headed back to Hinchliffe, then a shot by McAtee was deflected away for a corner after good play by Maguire-Drew.
And from the flag, Town had their second goal as Maguire-Drew’s delivery was headed back across goal by Waterfall for HOLOHAN to volley home from close range.
Andy Cannon replaced Johnson in Stockport’s final substitution with 12 minutes to go and Crankshaw had the ball in the net for them on 82 minutes but the offside flag had already gone up against him and Town’s lead remained intact.
A Maguire-Drew free kick from the right was headed over the bar and soon afterwards, McAtee had an opportunity to make it 3-1 when he was played in through the middle by Taylor but after forcing himself wide, his shot was blocked by Hinchliffe.
A Town corner was cleared before Fox came on in place of McAtee, as the hosts now looked to hold onto their hard-earned advantage with five minutes to go.
Croasdale headed wide at the other end after meeting a cross from Crankshaw, then Dieseruvwe replaced Taylor in Grimsby’s last change.
Five added minutes were played at the end of the game and a Stockport free kick from halfway was headed clear, before Maguire-Drew was first to a corner from the away right.
Town looked to see the remainder of the game out, with Maguire-Drew showing good experience to take the ball towards the corner flag.
Stockport had one final attack as they tried to salvage a point but the Mariners held firm to close out a superb win.
They will now look to continue their play-off charge when they travel to King’s Lynn Town on Easter Monday.