Tranmere Rovers 3 Sutton United 2
MICHAEL Ihiekwe's stunning stoppage time volley sparred Tranmere's blushes as they eventually overcame Sutton United at Prenton Park on Tuesday evening.
The Whites dominated most of the game and were comfortably two goals to the good before substitutes Jack Jebb and Pape Gueye changed the game with late goals for the visitors.
It looked like Rovers were going to hand the National League initiative to Lincoln before Ihiekwe produced a goal to saviour deep in injury time, igniting scenes of utter bedlam in Birkenhead.
The result draws Tranmere level on points with Danny Cowley's title favourites on extended Micky Mellon's winning run to five consecutive matches.
Micky Mellon kept faith with the starting XI that overcame Wrexham on Saturday, retaining the services of Cole Stockton up front in place of rested top scorer Andy Cook.
Tranmere took the lead just before the half hour mark, when a ball out wide was swung over invitingly first time by Adam Buxton and Ihiekwe rose at the far post to nod home a textbook header.
That lead was almost doubled two minutes after the break, when Buxton beat Sutton 'keeper Will Puddy all ends up with a 25-yard free kick, only to see his curling effort rebound off the base of the post before Lee Vaughan lashed the rebound over.
Paul Doswell brought on Jebb with 18 minutes to play and five minutes later he was on the scoresheet after beating Scott Davies with a dipping 25-yard drive.
The equaliser soon followed.
With concentration wobbling, Rovers' defence switched off when they thought they would be awarded a free-kick that never came.
When Ridehalgh fail to clear his lines fellow substitute Pape Gueye pounced to bundle the ball home.
It looked like the hosts had thrown two vital points away, but at the death Ihiekwe arrived on the edge of the penalty area to side foot home an unbelievable volley that gave Tranmere a memorable late victory and kept their title hopes very much alive.
Micky Mellon said: "It's easy for me to say now, that's football, but you're thinking to yourself 'what has just happened?'
"But then to show the character and the composure to try and find a way back into it again – the boys deserve a whole lot of credit.
"It was brilliant the way that they never panicked and they believed that they would get another chance.
"To see that one go in at the end, it makes it worthwhile being a Tranmere fan and it's one we'll talk about for a long time.
"We've got a great result and we're still in the race.
"It was fantastic, it's what football's all about".
Tranmere Rovers 3 (Ihiekwe 29, 90+3, Eastmond 61 (O.G.)
Sutton United 2 Jebb 77, Gueye 81
Star man: Michael Ihiekwe (Tranmere centre back)
Ref rating: Joseph Johnson (7/10)
Tranmere (3-4-1-2): Davies, Buxton, McNulty, Ihiekwe, Vaughan, Hughes, Harris, Ridehalgh, C Jennings (Mekki 76), Stockton (Cook 82), Norwood.
Subs not used: Turner, Mangan, Collins
Sutton (4-4-2): Puddy, Jefford, John, Collins, Gomis, Dundas (Jebb 72), Eastmond, Spence, Deacon, Biamou (Gueye 78), Cadagon (Wright 64).
Subs not used: Nurse, Brown
Bookings Tranmere: C Jennings (30), Davies (70), McNulty (82) Sutton: John (31), Cadagon (33), Gomis (54)