A superb team display saw Horsham stun leaders Walton Casuals to record a very welcome first league win for nearly two months.
It was a clinical display of finishing from the hosts as first half headers from Gabby Odunaike and Jamie Cade, followed by a Tony Nwachukwu penalty after the break handed the Hornets only a second Ryman South win on home soil this season.
Goalkeeper Michael Hunter also produced some crucial saves at important times and could do nothing about his own goal which gave Casuals brief hope.
Following three straight cup defeats and no league win in five, a home victory looked like a tall order against buoyant visitors who sat proudly atop the table with ten wins from 13 games.
A slip at the back from Hornets defender Tom Graves let in Scott Day with the match only 20 seconds old, but with his back to goal his cheeky attempted back heel went wide.
From there it was no surprise to see the high-flying visitors look to attack with numbers, though they were largely reduced to half chances and speculative efforts from outside the box.
A big blow saw Horsham lose central midfielder Byron Napper to a leg injury following a late challenge from Lee Hall which earned the Casuals skipper the game’s first booking. Tony Nwachukwu replaced him while Napper was taken to hospital as a precaution.
Out of nothing Horsham then took the lead on 33 minutes with their first real effort on goal. Full-back Lewis Hamilton got forward down the right and delivered the perfect cross which Odunaike rose to meet, expertly guiding his header into the bottom corner.
And two minutes before half time the hosts had a second headed goal. Excellent centre forward play from Odunaike saw him hold the ball up and feed Hamilton, who produced a similarly sumptuous cross and this time Cade was there to just beat Casuals keeper Kieran Sanderson.
Hornets stopper Hunter saved from striker Connor French at the start of the second half before the hosts scored a third from the penalty spot. Nwachukwu did well on the left before finding Cade, who burst in the box and cleverly drew the foul from Darryl Shaw.
Nwachukwu stepped up and emphatically sent Sanderson the wrong way from the spot. Horsham 3-0 up to the delight of their vocal fans.
Casuals made two changes and the expected onslaught began to arrive. Hunter made good saves from Hall and Malach Hudson before the Hornets stopper was desperately unlucky to see Malik Ouani’s header crash against the crossbar, hit him on the back and go in.
Hunter spilled a fierce Liam Flanighan piledriver but thankfully round the post, and from there openings were limited thanks to some determined defending, particularly from centre backs Jahmahl King and Graves, who both grew into the game,
Cade had the chance to finish it but lifted a late effort over, and on 90 minutes sub Bobby Trannor fluffed a clear opening from six yards before he saw a bullet header kept out by Hunter’s best save of the night.
It was only Horsham’s fourth league win of the season and sets them up nicely for another visit to Hastings United this weekend.
Horsham: (4-3-3) Hunter; Hamilton, B King, J King, Graves; Napper (Nwachukwu 29), Harris, Marriott; Dunn, Odunaike, Cade.