Chester City 3, Exeter City 2: WHAT a feast to set before Sky Sports' armchair viewers! Conference football has rarely looked so good and Chester looked every inch the champions they will surely be, writes Ian Bedford.
The bad result many thought they were due looked on the cards briefly when Sean Devine cashed in on an uncharacteristically ill-judged header from Danny Collins after 58 minutes to put Exeter in front. But it took City just five minutes to get back in the game and, after that, the result was never in doubt.
Good teams are judged on many things, not least their ability to ride the setbacks, and Chester showed on Saturday that even against a side as accomplished as Exeter, they have the character and resilience to cope.
And in the mercurial Michael Twiss, City have a striker who can turn a game inside out. His equaliser was superbly struck after Daryl Clare had put in some great work to make the opening, and it was Twiss who forced a foul by Santos Gaia in the 70th minute from which Clare rifled a free-kick past James Bittner from 20 yards.
Even though City had their noses in front, Exeter remained a threat, but they had no answer to Twiss, who brought the crowd to its feet after 87 minutes when he cut in from the left, beat two defenders and swerved home a shot with the outside of his left foot to make it 3-1.
That goal, a candidate for Sky's goal of the season to rival the one he scored at Woking, should have put the result beyond doubt. But it was credit to the visitors that they kept going and substitute Sean Canham hit the roof of the net in added time.
It was too little, too late, but one goal was a fair difference between the sides and sent Exeter and their fans back to Devon with more than a little pride from their performance.
Chester: Turner, Collins, Guyett, Heard, Bol-land, Carden, McIntyre, Twiss, Clare (Elam 84), Carey (Davies 90), Stamp (Rapley 90). Subs: Lane, Woods.
Exeter: Bittner, Hiley, Gaia (Moxey 75), Todd, Ampadu (Afful 80), Coppinger, Cronin, Sheldon, Flack (Canham 68), Devine, Jeannin. Subs: Rice, Thomas.
Booked: Ampadu, Gaia. Referee: Tony Green, Leicester. Attendance: 4,046.