Strugglers Horsham produced their best performance of the season to gain revenge over Sittingbourne and end their brief flirt with the foot of the table.
Against the side who had humbled them 4-0 in the FA Trophy only last month, the shoe was firmly on the other foot in a blistering first half which left the Kent travellers stunned.
A brace from striker Billy Medlock – including another thumping free kick – and goals from Wayne Clarke and Ryan Marriott saw the Hornets storm into a shock 4-0 lead.
Sittingbourne pulled one back through Joe Taylor in first-half stoppage time, but there was no relenting from the Hornets in the second half, and they should have been well out of sight when two injury time goals from Tom Loynes and Taylor created a jittery finish.
Coming into the game on the back of four straight defeats which began at The Brickies, boss Simon Colbran made four changes to the side which lost at Faversham. Gary Charman returned despite still struggling with illness to partner Medlock up front, while Mat Simpson replaced Ian Varley, whose car broke down.
And after the frustration of recent weeks Colbran issued a very vocal pre match ear bashing to his troops which clearly had the desired effect in a blistering start.
When Horsham opened the scoring on 20 minutes it was fully deserved after a number of good moves had just not come off. And what a goal it was.
Striker Medlock scored an absolute peach against Tooting, and although this free kick wasn’t quite as far out it was every bit as special, rocketing into the top corner and giving Sittingbourne stopped Adam Molloy no chance.
Having thrown away the lead and a fine start away at Faversham on Saturday there was a huge sense of relief when Wayne Clarke sauntered in from the left and squeezed a low shot inside the post for 2-0.
Joy turned to disbelief when two became three soon after, Eddie Koboah led a quick Horsham break and found Marriott, whose left footed strike from range took a heavy deflection to wrong foot Molloy and nestle in the corner of the net.
And it was pinch yourself time for the home supporters when, two minutes later Charman robbed left back Ashley Ulph and fed Medlock to drill in his second and Horsham’s fourth.
Medlock even saw a close-range header cleared off the line to deny Horsham a fifth, though a sense of reality was restored in first half stoppage time, when a highly dubious free kick was turned in by Taylor for the final act of a breathless first 45 minutes.
Any thoughts of a more settled second period were soon extinguished when another thunderous Medlock free kick stung the palms of Molloy, with the rebound just looping over the head of an eager Clarke following up.
A rare lapse in the Horsham defence presented Taylor with a golden chance to drag the Kent side back into contention but he fluffed his lines from five yards.
But it was Horsham who continued to throw caution to the wind, Clarke darting in from the right to skip past three challenges only for his shot to be blocked, and Kobah fizzed one low past the far post following more fine build up play from the excellent Medlock.
Sittingbourne’s joint managers, bothers Jim and Paul Ward made all three changes in the space of five minutes and the tireless Charman was afforded a break when Jamie Ampleford replaced him.
Russell Bedford thought he had restored some hope for the visitors but his goal from the edge of the box was ruled out with a fellow player in an offside position obstructing Michael Hunter in the home goal.
Marriott, who provided the creative spark in the middle was replaced by Abs Bolaji, as Hunter was called into action again to beat away Loynes’ fierce shot.
But there was no doubting Horsham were well worth their lead, and in a flurry of late chances they should have added to their tally. Molloy saved from Ampleford after King’s raking pass had put him through, Medlock then should have done better from a three on two break and then when the diminutive striker’s stinging shot was tipped over by Molloy the resulting corner saw Mat Simpson and Ampleford again come close.
With tempers flaring as the game drew to a close there was late drama when Loynes and Taylor netted in the seven minutes of stoppage time, though it only served to take the gloss off a fine performance as Horsham hung on to claim a morale-boosting three points.
Despite this being only Horsham’s second league win they remain unbeaten at Gorings Mead in three Ryman South matches, taking seven points from a possible nine, though the win saw them jump only one place to second bottom.
And Colbran will be looking to extend that sequence when Walton Casuals are the visitors this Saturday in a match which again sees kids go free.