Tranmere Rovers 3 Lincoln City 2
A late strike from substitute Adam Mekki kept Tranmere's play-off hopes alive as ten-man Lincoln were eventually overcome in a frantic finish at Prenton Park.
Action from Tranmere against Lincoln City this afternoon. Pictures by Geoff Davies
Rovers were twice pegged back after leading through a James Norwood penalty and a Jake Kirby strike, but having looked like they would pay for a clutch of missed chances, Mekki’s goal ensured that it really was a Good Friday for the Birkenhead faithful.
Gary Brabin made only one change to the side that drew with Forest Green, bringing captain Steve Jennings back in for winger Mekki.
James Norwood on the ball this afternoon
Matt Hill had Rovers' first effort of note in the ninth minute but his side-foot shot from the edge of the box was comfortably held by Paul Farman.
Farman battered Jay Harris' 20-yard effort down in the 20th minute before the Imps' keeper saved the rebound from Gary Taylor-Fletcher.
Neat interchange between Taylor-Fletcher and James Norwood released Jeff Hughes but he pulled his shot just wide.
City had been non-existent up front but just past the half hour mark Terry Hawkridge sent a speculative effort well wide.
Rovers were awarded a penalty on 37 minutes when Bradley Wood clearly handled a shot from Jeff Hughes, and that was to be the Lincoln fullback’s last involvement in the match as he was shown a red card.
Norwood made no mistake from the spot, slamming home his 15th league goal of the season.
But the visitors were behind for only two minutes, when Tranmere switched off completely and allowed a Hawkridge cross to reach George Maris, who headed home unmarked in the penalty area.
That was frustration for Rovers who had been well in control of the match and they responded quickly with Norwood heading over from close range.
James Norwood in action
Tranmere then retook the lead on the stroke of half-time, when a well-worked corner eventually reached Taylor-Fletcher at the far post, who couldn't keep his balance, but Kirby was on hand to steer home his third goal of the season.
Rovers had an early scare in the second half when a shot from Jack Muldon rolled up the arm of the usually dependable Scott Davies before skipping past the wrong sided of the post for a Lincoln corner.
The Whites then should have doubled their lead when Norwood found Taylor-Fletcher who pulled the ball back for Hughes only to see his shot cleared off the line.
Norwood then had another shot saved before Kirby failed to capitalise on the rebound and somehow Lincoln survived.
Rovers continued to live dangerously though and another cross from Hawkridge this time found Muldon, who was inches off target.
The hosts grew ever closer to a third – Kirby had a shot saved before Hughes’ follow up was cleared off the line.
But while there was only one goal difference, City were still in this match and a shot on the turn from substitute Robbie McDaid had to be tipped round the post by Davies.
Taylor-Fletcher then had a shooting opportunity at the other end but his lofted effort was too high.
But Lincoln's sucker-punch arrived 18 minutes from time when a set piece delivery from the dangerous Hawkridge was glanced home by McDaid.
Rovers rallied but clinical finishing was in short supply, with Hughes sticking another goalmouth scramble over from a corner.
Rovers players during minute's silence for victims of terrorist attack in Brussels
A 25-yard free kick from Norwood sailed to safety as Tranmere went in desperate search of a winner.
As the hosts pressed Lee Vaughan went looking for a penalty with five minutes to play but the ref waved play on.
But Rovers finally got their reward four minutes from the finish when substitute Mekki forced the ball home from close range sending Prenton Park ecstatic.
Gary Brabin said afterwards: "I just thought I’d keep everyone in suspense just a little bit longer today!
"We’ve scored three at home and I think it’s a bit harsh saying we should be scoring more goals."
Manager Gary Brabin during minute's silence for victims of terrorist attacks in Brrussels
"I just thought we sat off a little bit in the second half, invited too much pressure on us, but full credit to Lincoln, once they went down to ten men they threw everything at us.
"In the end we’re just glad we got the three points and a win.
“When you go one nil up and you’re against ten men, you’re expected to win the game but they changed the system and it posed a few problems. We could have made life a lot easier for ourselves today.
Rovers, now fifth on the National League table, are away to Kidderminster on Easter Monday.
Tranmere Rovers: 3
Norwood 35 (pen), Kirby 45+1, Mekki 86
Lincoln City 2
Maris 41, McDaid 72
Half time: 2-1
Star man: Steve Jennings (Tranmere midfielder)
Ref rating: Adrian Holmes (7/10)
Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies 6; Vaughan 6, McNulty 7, Ihiekwe 7, Hill 6; Kirby 7 (Mekki 64, 7), Jennings 8, Harris 7; Hughes 6; Taylor-Fletcher 7 (Fenwick 75, 6), Norwood 7.
Subs not used: Turner, Riley, Higdon,
Lincoln City (4-4-1-1): Farman 7; Wood 6, Waterfall 6, Bush 7, Beevers 6, Hawkridge 8, Tempest 5 (Simmons 57, 6), Muldoon 7, Maris 7, Power 6, Rhead 5 (McDaid 54, 7).
Subs not used: Grant, Wilding, Howe
Tranmere - 9
Lincoln - 4
Tranmere - 9
Lincoln - 4
Tranmere - 6
Lincoln - 5
Tranmere - 7
Lincoln - 11
Tranmere - 7
Tranmere - 1
Lincoln - 1
Tranmere - 0
Lincoln - 1