Versatile Wanganui City FC are the last Whanganui team left standing in sudden death football this year after booking their place in the Lotto Federation Cup quarterfinals in a 5-4 away game thriller with Hawera FC this afternoon.
On a busy Queen's Birthday Monday, with eight games around the Central Football catchment, Wanganui Marist Celtic's brave challenge to come out of local league and foot it with the big boys saw them go down 4-1 to Western Rangers at Saint Leonards Park in Hastings, while GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic lowered their flag to Hokowhitu FC, 2-1 at Wembley Park.
City headed to Turuturu Park in South Taranaki confident they could get on top of the home side's back defenders.
That did happen, but not without some extraordinary passages of play, where Hawera scored in the opening exchanges of both halves, then had a wild exchange of goals with City during injury time to close the gap to one by the finish.
"Just trying to work out in my brain what happened," said co-coach Anthony Bell.
"Very scrappy game, played in the right spirit though.
"It was a physical game, they've got some big boys in there and there were some hearty challenges."
Cup fixtures often throw a spotlight on the officiating, and City found themselves down 1-0 after a penalty in the third minute.
There followed a blitz of three goals from the visitors from the 20th to 22nd minutes, with Kyle Graham-Luke getting a double to book-end the second team goal by co-coach Latham Berry.
Hawera closed the gap to 3-2 straight after halftime, but Graham-Luke getting his hat-trick in the 84th minute seemed to seal the match as injury time approached.
Instead, Hawera received an own-goal when the City keeper stepped over the line retrieving the ball in the 90th minute, but that did not seem to matter as reserve Dan Aplin scored in the 94th minute for 5-3.
There was still 60 seconds left for Hawera, as the ball rattled around in front of City's posts before taking a deflection for their fourth goal, before the whistle finally sounded for fulltime.
"We did bring a possession-style of footy we played with [Palmerston North] Marist," Bell said.
"We did have them for speed at the back, it was just trying to get the ball from our back through the midfield.
"That's where they made it hard for us. They did stack the midfield and tried to break it up."
As well as Graham-Luke, Zane Robinson was strong at centre, while Jordan Joblin-Hall stepped up again.
Bell was also pleased with the debut of Jack Donaldson, as the 17-year-old came off the bench at centre back and looked very assured.
City resumes their Lotto Federation League campaign at home to North End on Saturday, while Wanganui Athletic travel to Skoglund Park for a rematch with Hokowhitu.