GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic and Versatile Wanganui City FC are now both Wembley Park and Lotto Federation League table neighbours again after high scoring, and high drama, in their matches at Wembley Park and Memorial Park on Saturday.
Athletic will gladly take their first back-to-back victories of 2019, and both on the road, after holding off a strong comeback by Palmerston North Boys High to win 4-2.
Meanwhile, City kept their unbeaten streak at home alive, but that does not tell the tale of one of the most extraordinary League matches this season, as somehow the heavy favourites found themselves down 3-0 against bottom table New Plymouth Rangers, and then somehow fired home five second half goals to draw the match 6-6 after trailing for over 88 minutes.
"It's a confusing one for everybody to take in," said co-coach Latham Berry said today, about 24 hours and a couple of stiff drinks later, as he tried to process a surreal 90 minutes.
"For the neutral to watch, it must have been entertaining."
City were missing three key players, including co-coach Anthony Bell, and initially did not adapt well to the rainy conditions, as the Taranaki visitors made mincemeat of the defence in the early exchanges to be 2-0 up in less than ten minutes, before banging home their third goal after half an hour.
"They started pretty hot, their striker [Kieran Sturrock] is in the running for the golden boot," said Berry.
"We didn't turn up in the first half. At all.
"They would bounce it off the striker's feet and spin in behind, which worked for them."
City did close the gap to 3-1 before the break, after some good raids down the right flank by Max Davidson got them a few chances, and then Dan Aplin scored off a rebound from the keeper leaping to the top of the box.
Football: Both Wanganui City and Athletic rare favourites in Federation League
"It was a stern talk [at halftime]. The game wasn't beyond us by any means," said Berry.
They close the gap to 3-2 early in the second stanza, but then began a steady tit-for-tat exchange with Rangers, who continued to attack from the mid-field and were living by the sword and dying by it if need be - given they did not even try to park the bus on defence until well inside the final ten minutes.
"Every time we scored, less than five minutes later they scored to go two goals up again."
In all the chaos, Rangers led 5-3 entering the last 15 minutes, which got pulled back to 5-4 when Jake Lockett, blessedly available for the bench due to no Saturday club rugby, swooped in on a pressured defender's pass back to his keeper to intercept and score.
"He can score goals from anywhere. Always good to have on the bench or coming into the lineup," said Berry.
Rangers hit back to make it 6-4 with the clock ticking down, but still played openly, as Aplin sent a great cross into Berry to head the ball home with four minutes of regulation time left.
"There were still chances at both ends," said Berry.
When Jordan Joblin-Hall was fouled wide, City just rolled the dice and put every man forward, and Joblin-Hall's cross found a climbing Eli Fleming to header the ball home into the side net of the goalmouth for the equaliser.
Berry had to say, considering his team spent the first 45 minutes trying to shoot their own foot off, he was proud of the composure to come back.
As well as Lockett and Aplin, young players Ben Walker and Jack Donaldson impressed when they came off the bench in the second half, given the prematch plan had been for them to consolidate an expected lead, not save the game.
"They came in, and in the hot zone," said Berry.
"We just had to realistically get back to what we were doing last week, with good communication and line speed.
"If you look at it, we played our best footy [in 2019] with North End.
"The way we played the first half, after that to say we take a [competition] point....we can live with it.
"We do have a battling spirit. We clawed ourselves back into it."
Athletic coach Jason King was also looking to have a word with Berry today, given he is taken his team up to New Plymouth to face Rangers this coming weekend.
Coming into some form after last weekend's 3-0 win over Hokowhitu, Athletic had that same score on the board in just 20 minutes against the schoolboys at Memorial Park on Saturday.
"We started really strongly and picked up where we left off last week," said King.
In what proved to a detriment more than a positive, one of Athletic's goals came from the longer ball that got in behind the PNBHS defence, and Athletic became guilty of trying the same tactic too many times.
PNBHS then pulled it back to 3-2 by the break, with one of their goal-scorers being expat Zac Farmer after an excellent dink shot to clear Matt Calvert in goal.
Not panicking, King said the halftime talk was about getting back into the shape of the first quarter, while taking away the teenager's momentum.
"Both teams wanted to play.
"They a good footballing team with young players.
"We were at loggerheads for a while, then we put it away, probably five or 10 [minutes] to go, and that took the wind out of them."
Jude Hiri and James Satherley were goal-scorers, as was the man from Ohakune, Will King, for the second match in a row, while franchise player Ryan Holden found the back of the net for the third straight match.
Jason King was also pleased with home the match was officiated, as the referee was clear in what he wanted and asked both sides how they would like to proceed in areas like the speed of taking free kicks.
"He's probably one of the best refs we've had and we hope we get him again."
They will hope to keep the momentum going up at Pukekura Park this Saturday, while City will host Massey University at Wembley.