WHAT threatened to be a forgettable first outing for homeless Runcorn at their adopted Prescot base had a truly memorable ending.
Four goals in the last 14 minutes - three of them for the hosts - after a double dismissal brought a pulsating climax to a Nationwide game, in which the Linnets had hardly put a foot right.
But a sending off for each side, in the 63rd minute, changed all that and riled Runcorn into a response from 2-0 down.
John Robertson retaliated against a tackle by Stafford wideman Robin Gibson midway inside the Linnets half, causing a free-for-all with all but the Stafford goalkeeper arriving on the scene.
The referee deemed there was nothing more serious in the melee than the incident which sparked it and sent Robertson, the 6ft 4in Linnets skipper, and Gibson for an early bath.
What followed at Valerie Park was an astonishing turnaround. Runcorn picked their performance off the floor to score their first goal against their old rivals in 256 minutes of trying this season - and then added two more.
They came not only from 2-0 but also 3-1 down despite not having tested the Rangers keeper until seconds before they scored.
Phil Denney headed in at the far post from a 76th-minute left-wing corner forced - and taken - by Mike Jack.
Within two minutes, Nicky Young produced a stunning equaliser, rifling in off the underside of the bar after a left-flank run by Lee Parle.
It was 2-2 and game on. But it looked over again for Runcorn when Stafford regained their lead with seven minutes remaining.
Craig Wilding, scorer of Rangers' first two goals in the 17th and 54th-minute goals, was adjudged to have beaten the offside trap.
He drew three Runcorn defenders towards him and found 39-year-old striker Neil Grayson in time and space to drill home.
That was Rangers' first attack of any consequence since it had become 10-a-side, as they fell back on defence against an all-out Runcorn assault.
But with James Lock hitting wide with only the keeper to beat and then Denney having a goalbound shot blocked, after Lock's perfectly-timed pass, it looked to be enough.
Prior to Denney going close, Neil Thompson had made a fine reflex stop from Lee Downes' 87th-minute over-head.
It proved an important save. With the four minutes of stoppage time almost up, Tom Spearritt launched one of his long throw-ins from the right in a desperate final fling
The ball broke for Jack, who tried his luck at the aptlysituated Hope Street ground and saw his 25-yard screamer fly into the top-left corner.
The equaliser was the former Kendal Town midfieldman's first Runcorn goal and he will struggle to score a better or more crucial one.
There was scarcely time to restart and Runcorn had salvaged their second league draw of the campaign against the Marston Road men.
RUNCORN: Thompson, Spearritt, McGinn, Jones, Robertson, Parle, Taylor (Moore 68), Jack, Denney, Young, Lock. Subs: Carragher, Soley, Glover, Heenighan. Attendance: 280.