They had just faced an audience that was ready to kill. The crowd were expecting a bawdy, particularly blue stand-up, and an hour of bad taste jokes about the mother-in-law.
What they got was Jason Manford and Michael McIntyre.
The two young pretenders brought the house down, transforming the crowd from a drink-chucking mob into a gathering of rough diamonds with tears of laughter rolling down their faces.
The pair wiped the sweat from their brows, mopped the lager from their lapels and decided they were rather good at this.
"It was one of those moments," remembers Jason. "We had this sense that if we could get a laugh in that place, where there was something in the air and they were looking for blood, then we must be all right. We might even be quite good.
"Michael had the hard job. He had to go out there and be this posh, middle-class boy, leaping about on stage. But he did what had got him noticed in the first place, and they loved it. I got some good laughs too. And that was it. We just kind of knew this whole stand-up thing was going to work."
While McIntyre is now the face of BBC comedy and hosting his own Saturday night comedy vehicle, Manford has been steadily building a reputation as the king of the panel show.
A regular slot on 8 Out Of 10 Cats has been a showcase for his dry, down-to-earth and very Northern wit which, while not edgy, is very, very funny.
"You could make quite a nice living from just doing comedy panel shows," says the Mancunian comic, who continued his move to the mainstream circuit when he captained a team on forthcoming BBC1 venture As Seen On TV on Friday July 17.
The weekly celebrity panel quiz show on all things telly-related, will be hosted by Steve Jones, alongside regular team captains Fern Britton and Jason.
"It's a bit more mainstream, the new show," he says. "There are people on there like John Craven, who you don't tend to see on the other panel shows but there's definitely room for this kind of thing. It's funny. That's kind of the point."
"It's a different kind of audience as well. There's a good chance that some of them won't have heard of me and I'll have to prove myself again, but I kind of like that. With some of the other panel shows, there's that sense of competition and trying to be the funniest and outdo your mates. You can't really do that when John Craven is sitting there instead of Sean Lock or Jimmy Carr."
On the subject of panel shows, he's something of an expert. "We didn't really have these sorts of shows a few years back," he adds. "It's taken off in recent years and now it's like a whole genre. You do see the same faces but that's because they've done it once, got big laughs, and been asked to do it again. There's nothing wrong with sticking with a formula that works."
But does Jason ever worry about using his best gags on TV?
"That's the problem," he laughs. "I try and keep some material back for the live shows but sometimes you're caught up in the moment and use a cracking line and get a big laugh, and part of you is thinking that you'll probably have to cut that from the live shows from now on, and part of you is just pleased to know people watching at home might be having a chuckle. It's a fine line."
Jason started out glass collecting at Manchester's longest running comedy club, The Buzz. When an act failed to turn up one night, he stepped in.
Five weeks and four gigs later, he won the first of many awards - North West Comedian of the Year Award - previously won by Caroline Aherne, Johnny Vegas and Peter Kay.
He has struggled to escape comparisons to Kay, and is in no rush to distance himself from one of his comedy heroes.
"He's a legend," says Jason. "That's it. He's one of the funniest men on the planet. If people want to make that comparison, I take it as a compliment."
He has also been nominated for the Perrier Award and won Chortle and Writers' Guild awards for the Best Comedy Newcomer in 2005.
Over the last two years, his star has shone ever brighter, and his performance on Live At The Apollo ended to rapturous applause - thanks in part to a truly glorious routine about Liverpool fans.
And those who watched his recent performance in his mate McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow couldn't help but notice that the man who once described himself as a "fat Michael Owen" had slimmed down, and toned up.
"That's parenthood," says Jason, who recently became a father for the first time. "I've just been watching what I eat and going to the gym, but it's had an effect, which came as a surprise.
"I don't really believe in the science of weight loss. I know that if you eat less and move more you should lose weight, but to find it happening seemed peculiar somehow.
"I'm pleased I've done it. A lot of blokes have said nice things to me, which is a change from getting called a fat b*****d. I can't really see myself making an exercise video, mind."
Jason's comedy and wry observations about Northern life are the result of a thoroughly down-to-earth upbringing which is wonderfully brought back to life in his stand-up act.
"My dad had narcolepsy," he recalls, with a twinkle in his eye. "He'd just fall asleep. Me and my brother used to go and get changed into our school uniforms so when he woke up he'd think he'd slept all night and was late for work.
"He'd use it wisely though. Sometimes Mam would be nagging and he'd drop off and then he'd open his eye a fraction and give me a wink."
It's clear that Jason owes much of his success to his formative years.
He says: "A lot of my family are performers, singers or entertainers in Irish bands and I remember getting up at family dos and doing Elvis impersonations.
"I was always the funny lad at school, and it got me into a bit of trouble but I was in a school in south Manchester where they were more worried about getting killed than witty remarks. Teachers would leave at the end of the day relieved that a chair hadn't been thrown at them."
As for his future, Jason has a few irons in the fire.
"I'm writing a sitcom for the BBC with my best mate Steve Edge," he says of the Phoenix Nights/Mike Bassett actor.
"I doubt I'll do stand-up forever. Sometimes I get asked to do a comedy show and I've got literally nothing left to say. But then you do a show where you do all new material and you get the audience shouting out for you to do a gag they've heard before, like it's a greatest hits show or something.
"I do like the idea of me and Michael being the new Tarbuck and Brucie, phoning each other up and arranging charity golf tournaments."
Extra time - Jason Manford
Jason was born in Salford, Great Manchester, on May 26, 1981.
He was working in a club collecting glasses when he got his comedy break. A comedian booked for the evening didn't turn up, leaving Jason the chance to jump on stage and tell a few jokes of his own.
In June 2007, he took over from Dave Spikey as a team captain on 8 Out Of 10 Cats.
He supports Manchester City.
Jason is a patron of Save Babies UK, a charity that aims to prevent death and preventable disease in newborn babies through screening.