Rathfriland rangers were agonisingly edged out 5-4 by Tullycarnet in a thrilling Clarence Cup tie.
The windy conditions and tight pitch set up a glut of goals in a game that saw very little football played but a more determined Tullycarnet getting through.
Tullycarnet took an early lead with a well hit free kick that Kieran Maguire was late to see as it squeezed through the Rathfriland wall. Rathfriland struggled to play their passing game on the tight 3G pitch but soon got an equaliser with Thomas Lockhart hitting a free kick of his own into the top corner.
Within a minute of the restart, Tullycarnet took the lead again with a mix up in the Rathfriland defence seeing the ball crossed from the right and the Tullycarnet striker poking into the net. Tullycarnet soon made it 3-1 when a kick out from the keeper was flicked on to the striker who ran through and put the ball into the net past the advancing Maguire.
Rathfriland lifted themselves again and pulled a goal back with Aidan Sheekey hitting a shot and Stevie Coulter redirecting it into the bottom corner to make it 3-2. Minutes later, Thomas Lockhart broke the offside trap and struck the ball into the Tullycarnet net past the keeper to draw the sides level.
The Rathfriland supporters just about had time to get their breath back when Ryan Evans controlled the ball well from a Maguire kick out and played Lockhart through to complete his hat trick in style with a cool finish into the bottom corner. In a pulsating half, Rathfriland went in 4-3 up with everyone trying to predict how many goals the second half would bring.
Fifteen minutes after the restart, Rathfriland conceded a corner and Tullycarnet quickly passed it out to their midfielder who belted the ball into the corner to make it 4-4. The goal lifted the home side and ten minutes later they took the lead when another defensive error saw the ball break for the Tullycarnet striker, who drove in the eventual winner.
The Tullycarnet keeper saved well from an Aidan Sheekey header and Stevie Coulter could have had a goal but unfortunately the ball got caught under his feet. Tullycarnet still managed a few shots on goal but Kieran Maguire saved well on several occasions. In the dying minutes Ryan Evans broke down the right and hit a low shot but the keeper got a hand to it and the ball fizzed across the box.
The game ended 5-4 and although there were plenty of excuses for Rathfriland, the Tullycarnet side played to the pitch conditions and bossed their way through to the next round.