Chester FC fell to their first defeat of the National League season after a topsy-turvy encounter with Sutton United.
Kieran Cadogan won it for the Us in injury time after goals from Craig Mahon and Lucas Dawson had seen Chester fight back from 2-0 down after an abject first half display.
Louis John and Tommy Wright accounted for Sutton’s other strikes and they were head and shoulders above the Blues in the opening half, although a stirring fightback raised spirits before Cadogan broke Blues hearts.
The Blues, without strikers Harry White and Nyal Bell through injury, came into the game on the back of three straight draws to open up their National League campaign, although their winless run at home dated back to December 17 last year and a 2-0 win over Aldershot Town.
Sutton meanwhile had started the season in fine fettle.
Last season’s FA Cup heroics, where they reached the fifth round before losing to Premier League giants Arsenal, had helped Paul Doswell’s men boost their means during the summer and turned them in to one of those fancied to nick a play-off spot.
Wins over Leyton Orient and Tranmere Rovers had helped catapult them to second in the table coming in to the game, carrying on their good form from the back end of last season.
And it didn’t take long for them to open their account at the Swansway Chester Stadium.
Less than five minutes were on the clock when the Us exploited space on the right wing and a ball was fed in to Craig Dundas who teed up defender Louis John to slam home with aplomb from 20 yards, leaving Conor Mitchell no chance in the Chester goal.
And it didn’t serve as a wake up call as Sutton bossed proceedings at the start, exploiting space down the flanks and cutting through the midfield with ease.
John went close with another long range effort after the Blues were unable to clear their lines.
Chester were playing deep and inviting the visitors to come at them, and when Ross Hannah cleared a corner upfield with every single Blues player defending in their own area it was met with boos and jeers from some sections of the home faithful.
Ross Lafayette then saw his low effort deflect wide for a corner after being given a second bite at the cherry after his first shot was blocked.
But there was worse to come for Chester on 21 minutes when striker Hannah pulled up with what looked like a reoccurance of the hamstring problem that blighted his pre-season.
And with no replacement strikers on the bench owing to absence of injured duo White and Bell, McCarthy threw on winger Jordan Chapell.
Sutton continued to poor forward and Wright lashed wide with a low effort from 18 yards after cutting in from the right flank before former Middlesbrough man Nicky Bailey picked up a short corner in acres of space but saw his shot drag wide.
Chester were offering little if anything going forward with James Akintunde’s blocked effort from 10 yards from Mahon cross and a Lucas Dawson effort that went well wide the only chances of note.
A minute later and Sutton doubled their advantage.
Wright raced on to a long ball and ran at the Blues back line, taking it out to the right before firing low and hard past Mitchell at the near post. The Northern Irishman may feel he could have done better.
It was hard to argue that it wasn’t a scoreline deserving of Sutton’s dominance.
But Chester had a lifeline moments before the half time whistle out of nowhere.
A corner was swung in to the Ryan Astles whose header was blocked and cleared as far as Mahon who took a touch and rifled an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 20 yards, his fizzing strike leaving Jamie Butler no chance in the Sutton goal.
It gave Chester and chink of light and staved off what would have likely been boos from some in the home crowd, growing irate at the home side’s lack of width and impact in the final third.
Sutton thought that they had regained their two-goal cushion five minutes after the break when Bailey’s 30 yard free kick on the left sailed past everyone, including Mitchell, and into the back of the net.
But after some discussion with his linesman, referee Peter Marsden overruled the goal, with offside given against Jamie Collins, deemed to have touched the ball on its way.
That lifted the Blues and caused much ire among the Sutton bench, enraged at the decision.
Mahon lifted the mood with some fine trickery and a willingness to run at his man. And it proved infectious among his teammates as they too began to lift their games.
Akintunde’s cross from the right was sidefooted just wide by Kingsley James from 18 yards as Chester upped the ante, and they were rewarded just after the hour mark.
A flowing move in midfield involving Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and James saw the ball laid to Dawson 20 yards out who took the ball in his stride before finding the corner of the net with a low right-footed effort to restore parity.
Sutton tried to respond immediately but Kenny Davis could only blaze over from 20 yards under pressure from Blues goal scorer Dawson.
But Chester were looking to end their home hoodoo and Rowe-Turner came close with 10 minutes remaining when he beat his man and raced into the area only to see his shot fizz well wide from 15 yards.
There was to be no happy ending for Chester, though.
One minute into three added minutes of stoppage time saw substitute Kieran Cadogan latch on to a long ball and lift over Mitchell from close range, sparking some embarrassing scenes on the Sutton touchline with their assistant manager goading the home support.
A first defeat of the season for the Blues, and while they must be credited for their fightback they simply cannot give teams a 2-0 head start.
Chester FC: Mitchell, Halls, Rowe-Turner, Astles, McCombe, Turnbull, James, Mahon, Dawson, Hannah (Chapell 23), Akintunde. Subs: Lynch, Davies, Waters, Joyce.
Goals: Mahon 45, Dawson 63.
Sutton United: Butler, Thomas, John, Collins, Davis (Emmanuel 79), Eastmond, Bailey, Spence, Wright (Cadogan 79), Dundas (Taylor 66), Lafayette. Subs: Amankwaah, Jeffrey.
Bookings: Davis, Bailey, Lafayette.
Goals: John 5, Wright 44.
Referee: Paul Marsden.
Star man: Craig Mahon - A stunning strike for his goal and it was his endeavour and trickery early in the second half that lifted his teammates and aided the fightback.