THIS win marks a moment when 1874 Northwich announced their arrival as a promotion contender.

Without a league victory in previous meetings with a direct rival to finish in the table’s top two, this latest head-to-head looked like a hopeless case when their guests established a two-goal lead inside 35 minutes.

Half an hour later, Hanley had been humbled comprehensively.

Belief had been restored among those watching at Barton Stadium.

They could be forgiven for questioning their faith when James Pointon delivered an opening goal for the visitors after cutting inside from the left touchline.

When captain Theo Stair doubled Hanley’s advantage, striking home from the edge of the penalty after initially losing his footing, his side was favourite to avenge a defeat in the League Challenge Cup in October.

1874, crucially, replied before half time.

Daley Woods, raiding from the right, cut back for leading scorer Mike Brandon – who received a prize before kick off for being Division One’s best player during November – to score with power.

Two minutes later, Ian Street’s men were level when Steve Crane burst forward from a position in midfield to drill a fine finish past goalkeeper Dane Jackson.

Contest poised, both teams attacked in the second half.

Pointon might have doubled his personal tally when shooting narrowly wide, the assistant manager Lee Duckworth time perfectly an intervention to deny the same player when he seemed certain to score.

1874 edged ahead for the first time after an hour, Brandon’s pass sending Stuart Wellstead into a space from which he supplied an assist for Rick Bailey to steer in.

The outcome was settled with a quarter hour to play, Woods’ centre landing perfectly for Brandon to hammer home goal number 24 of a remarkable campaign.

Suddenly, the table’s summit seems not so far away.

1874 Conkie (GK), Mitchell, Farnworth, Duckworth, Stewart, Bailey, Jones, Crane, Woods (Murphy 88), Brandon, Wellstead (Coffin 86) Subs not used Bowyer, Woolley, McGregor Goals Brandon 42, 72 Crane 44, Bailey 58 Booked Jones

Referee Mike Crusham
Attendance 322