PONTEFRACT Collieries will have fancied their chances when captain Mark Whitehouse curled in a stunning equaliser midway through the second-half.

Then they ran into Scott McGowan.

By the end, after he had scored twice, the result reflected a difference between 1874 Northwich, who progress to the FA Vase last 16 for the first time, and their opponents.

Paul Stockton would have smiled.

The chairman had planned this day, concluding negotiations with Witton Albion to host the game shortly before his death last week.

A 10th successive win in all competitions, and in front of the biggest crowd to watch his team perform, felt fitting.

Indeed, it could not have gone better.

This has been a transformative season already for Northwich, with their records book regularly updated, and to play a first home game in the town is compelling evidence of that.

They came up against well-drilled visitors, who were successful in disrupting 1874’s fluency – by fair means and foul – during a cagey first-half.

Scott Brown was booked in the second-minute for a foul on Jake Parker, and his teammates did not compromise from that moment on.

Jack Greenhough’s long-throw was a weapon they deployed early, and often, although initially with scant reward.

Instead they were grateful to goalkeeper Ryan Musselwhite for parrying Mark Jones’ shot after Paul Connor had cut inside from the right.

McGowan went closer still when he tried to catch out Colls’ custodian with a speculative attempt after Greg Hall’s long clearance had dropped invitingly.

Taylor Kennerley’s shot didn’t faze the visitors’ number one, and nor did Whitehouse’s drive when it faded wide at the other end.

1874 sneaked in front from the final attack of the half, Jones reacting quickest to jab in a loose ball after Musselwhite failed to hold on to Sam Hind’s low drive.

It changed what Pontefract manager Craig Parry had planned to say during the interval.

His side responded afterwards, and Kane Reece was wasteful when scooping high after Vaughan Redford had dribbled infield from the right.

Referee Michael Barlow decided against making what appeared to be an easy decision to award a penalty when Jimmy Williams’ grabbed hold of McGowan with both hands when the striker shaped to shoot after Hind nudged the ball his way.

And 1874 felt sicker still when Whitehouse arced a perfectly-placed free-kick out of Hall’s reach to level on 69 minutes.

In between, Northwich’s custodian had stretched fully to divert Eli Hey’s rising drive to safety with his fingertips.

It was Pontefract’s most promising period, but 1874 resisted.

Hind’s shot was smuggled off the line by Williams before Cody Cromack timed brilliantly a tackle to divert McGowan’s shot over the crossbar.

The front man was not to be denied, and he manoeuvred stealthily to a position at the back-post from where he headed in Hind’s cross on 78 minutes.

It deflated the visitors too.

Northwich made sure of a victory in added time when substitute Calum Stapleton sent fellow replacement Kazim Waite-Jackson crashing to the floor after he danced into the penalty area.

Musselwhite stopped McGowan’s spot-kick to his left, but could not prevent the striker slamming in the rebound.

It’s what he does, and this time it was for Paul.

1874 |4-2-3-1 | Hall (GK), Connor, Mitchell, Pritchard, Lee Jackson, Matthew Woolley, Jones, Hind, Parker (Waite-Jackson 73), Kennerley (Ryan Jackson 60), McGowan Subs not used Riley, Lever, Thomas Goals Jones 45 (+1), McGowan 78, 90 (+2) (penalty)

Pontefract |4-4-2 | Musselwhite (GK), Greenhough, Williams (Jeffs 79), Clarke, Whitehouse, Redford, Brown, Cromack (Stapleton 76), Dunn (Willis 86), Hey, Reece Sub not used Saynor (GK) Booked Brown, Clarke, Dunn, Stapleton (all fouls) Goal Whitehouse 69

Referee Michael Barlow

Attendance 625