THE first cross-border derby for seven years went the way of the last - a cup victory for Wrexham.
But the Welsh dragon wasn't so much breathing fire as gasping for breath in the second half of the LDV Vans Trophy area quarter-final as Chester, bidding to bounce back from the League Two home defeat by Oxford United on Saturday, shook off their first-half inferiority complex to push their neighbours close to extra time.
The tension leading up to this eagerly-awaited clash was heightened by the 10-minute kick-off delay to allow the fans into the ground, but when the first whistle blew Chester couldn't rise to the occasion.
An inhibited performance - not for the first time in the opening period this season - allowed Wrexham to take control with a comfort on the ball which separates their two divisions.
But the depression which hung over the home supporters at half-time was dramatically lifted with the introduction of Robbie Booth. He immediately transformed the game and the City fans were left to wonder what might have happened if Ian Rush had been bold enough to play the teenager in a 4-3-3 formation from the start.
We will never know. But what we do know is that Rush, an uncut diamond himself at Booth's tender age, has a gem in this talented midfielder.
Booth's influence was immense as Chester put the League One side on the back foot for most of the second-half and even if they could have been punished when occasionally left exposed as they chased down an equaliser there was no doubt they deserved at least an extra half-hour.
Wrexham's match-winner midway through the first-half was well-worked and neatly finished by Juan Ugarte, but that was about all the Welsh side offered in threats on goal.
What they had was a greater ability to pass the ball which Chester didn't see often enough to build momentum and with Kevin Rapley isolated up front against the towering Dennis Lawrence they didn't seem to have the solution to breaking down the Wrexham defence.
The half-time tactical switch changed all that and it was almost one-way traffic to the Wrexham goal which somehow remained intact.
Kevin Ellison was in fine scoring positions three times, two of the chances created by Booth who also did the spadework for Phil Bolland's late opportunity which the central defender squandered.
Wrexham seemed content to rely on their defence to weather the storm and hoped to catch Chester with a counter-punch and they almost delivered the knockout blow when substitute Hector Sam, a target of Rush recently, missed the chance of the game in added time, failing to get past Brown with only the keeper to beat.
Coca-Cola League Two Saturday, November 27, 2004 Chester City: Mackenzie, Edmondson, McIntyre, Bolland, Hope, Drummond, Ellison, Harris, Davies, Rapley, Booth. Subs not used: Brown, Vaughan, Hessey, Latham, Whalley.
Goal: Ellison (35). Booked: Hope, Bolland, McIntyre, Drummond, Rapley, Davies.
Oxford United: Tardif, Mackay, Robinson, Roget, Ashton, Mooney (Davies 75), Basham, Bradbury, Wanless, Quinn, E'Beyer. Subs not used: Hackett, Brooks, Clarke, Molyneaux.
Booked: Roget, Quinn, Wanless, E'Beyer. Goals: E'Beyer (16), Robinson (67), Basham (84). Referee: Nigel Miller, Co.Durham.