IT is easy to forget after the past few weeks that Northwich Victoria actually has a fine team this season.
For 90 minutes at least, their fans were able to put on the blinkers and concentrate on nothing other than dreaming of a trip to Wembley.
What they saw will let them sleep happy.
Their team humbled a higher-ranked opponent, again, with a performance that reminded supporters that their fight – and flair – is undiminished.
And that despite the club being evicted from its home last month.
Before the game, those same fans wondered whether their team had kept focus after a fortnight without a match in a context of off-field chaos.
That idea was without foundation by the break.
No sooner had new manager Paul Simpson waved his gratitude to Northwich fans for a warm reception before kick off, he saw his side smother their guests.
Nathan Woolfe proved their inspiration.
He drilled in a low shot, left-footed, on the quarter hour after Chris Budrys had nudged the ball in his direction.
Hampton, shorn of skipper Matt Ruby who suffered a serious knee injury five minutes in, wilted without their leader.
Jordan Johnson’s curled effort clipped a defender on its way wide after Wayne Riley’s impudence had left Josh Huggins looking the wrong way.
Riley headed too close to keeper Craig Ross, then Budrys scuffed off target with the goal at his mercy after Johnson’s corner reached him, unmarked, at the back post.
When Woolfe’s wonder goal – a dipping shot from distance that left Ross with little chance – arrived eight minutes before the break, the game was as good as over.
For Hampton, it was a horrible half.
Unable to adapt to a swirling wind, they looked likely to concede every time Northwich sent a set piece towards their goal.
Riley smuggled a loose ball over the line at the start of the second period when another Johnson corner came to him at close range, but Vics switched to cruise control too soon.
The only upshot for the visitors an awakening for top scorer David Tarpey, who quick as a flash converted a half chance that came his way on 57 minutes.
Buoyed, he single-handedly took on Vics’ retreating defence from then on in.
Goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe stretched far enough to claw clear the front man’s volley, then raced off his line to smother Tarpey’s next shot after he had wriggled clear of Dominic Collins.
His growing threat receded as quickly as it had emerged though after Lewis Ferrell sent Woolfe sprawling inside the area midway through the half.
Kyle Armstrong’s emphatic penalty returned the contest back to type.
Vics have won six matches to reach the last eight, where Blue Square Bet Premier Newport County await, which is more than ties than they needed to win on their last visit to Wembley in 1996.
Their fans won’t mind if it takes a little longer to get there this time.
Vics Hinchliffe (GK), Disney, Kearney, Collins, Short, Armstrong, Roddy, Johnson (Wade 64), Riley(Evans 83), Woolfe, Budrys (Clarke 75)
Subs not used Smyth, Fitzpatrick
Goal Woolfe 15, 37, Riley 53, Armstrong 67 (penalty)
Hampton Ross (GK), Ferrell, Johnson, Powell, Ruby (Inman 8), Huggins, Collier (Moone 72), Andrews (Hickey 62), Tarpey, Simmonds, Alabi
Subs not used Rae-Beadle, Jeffreys
Goal Tarpey 57
Booked Powell (foul)
Referee Peter Bankes (Liverpool)