IT was hard to decide who performed the worst on Saturday - Runcorn or the match officials.
There wasn't much to pick between them - both were hugely under par.
Runcorn, with midfieldman Mike Garrity and striker Carl Rendell making their debuts, needed those around them to spark.
But they ended up misfiring badly in a display which went from bad to worse.
For a long time, Ashton weren't any better. But they then conjured up the lone magic moment in a clash that was utterly forgettable - apart, that is, for some bizarre officiating which will long be remembered.
Twelve minutes from time, Craig Fleury flew up in support of a run by Steve Smith as Ashton's two widemen turned up on the right.
Fleury burst inside and across Runcorn's defence and demonstrated stunning accuracy in curling his left-foot shot inside the far post.
But back to the referee. He had started off by banning Runcorn's sidelined player-manager Chris Lightfoot from his technical area, insisting for some strange reason Lightfoot should watch from behind the advertising hoardings.
But that was only the start of the antics from the three men in black.
There were poor offside decisions affecting both sides and the caution count became almost farcical in a match which didn't contain a malicious challenge.
By half-time, five players were on yellow cards - including three from Runcorn.
In the 30th minute, Steve Carragher and Ashton's Danny White were both brought to book after a 50-50 challenge.
The referee then awarded the free-kick to the visitors - despite his nearby assistant flagging for it to go the opposite way.
Runcorn ended up with seven of the nine yellows and if there was anything positive to be taken from an abjectly poor display, it was that they had no-one dismissed.
Three of their four cautions after the break were for dissent - which was a reflection of the frustrations the referee had caused. Then both times he ought to have acted, he didn't.
There was a strong suspicion that Ged Nolan, having rightly been booked for handball earlier in the half after Runcorn had got themselves in an almighty muddle, illegally checked the run of Paul Garvey as the Ashton striker tried to go through and clear.
Then, two minutes after the break, Kevin Leadbetter was flattened by Lincoln Adams as the Ashton player's fellow centre-back and skipper Darren Royle, plus keeper Danny True-man, starred in a comedy of errors which left the Runcorn striker with a full view of goal.
Adams wasn't even spoken to for his push, although he was the last man. But at least Kevin Leadbetter scored from the spot - albeit on the rebound.
However, not even a goal could lift Runcorn and Ashton pulled level from a superb Phil Denney penalty - after a 55th-minute handball by Barry Hogan - before going on to win.
RUNCORN: McMillan, Carragher, Ness, Nolan, Ellis, Spearritt, Hogan, Garrity, Rendell (Carden 76), Courtney, Leadbetter. Subs: Thomas, Parkinson. Attendance: 239.