There was no fond farewell for Tom Wade as Blyth Spartans manager as Corby Town scored a stoppage time winner in a seven-goal thriller at the Steel Park Stadium.
Ben Milnes scored within the first five minutes before Blyth captain Robert Dale got the visitors back on level terms before the break.
Femi Orenuga profited from Peter Jeffries’ error within 60 seconds of the restart to put the hosts back ahead before substitute Danny Draper looked to have sealed all three points in the Evo-Stik Premier League clash with an unstoppable strike from 25 yards.
But Sean Reid’s header and Dale’s second appeared to have ended Blyth’s losing streak with time running out, only for Jordon Crawford to steal a first win of the season for the league’s 22nd-placed side.
Spartans’ management team named four changes in their final side before new manager Alun Armstrong takes over from Wade as manager and, with a vocal following from the fantastic Spartans fans, it looked like Blyth were all set to send their departing boss off in style.
But Corby had not received their copy of the script as they took the lead with the game barely five minutes old.
Crawford’s cross from the right looked to have been intercepted by Ryan Hutchinson, but the ball appeared to roll up off his foot and towards the edge of the area and Milnes jinked inside and out before finding the bottom corner with a low drive on the turn.
Town then threatened to double their advantage just four minutes later, but a well-timed interception from Matty Pattison, who had scuffed a half-chance moments earlier, saw him to casually chest the ball back to Jeffries.
Both Jarrett Rivers and Michael Richardson tried to pull Blyth back into the game, but neither could put the ball in the back of the net. Richardson fired wide after Rivers had saw his shot blocked.
Rivers then went close again in an attacking move that really should have ended in an equaliser. The tricky winger interlinked well with Daniel Maguire to get into the box, but his shot was saved by the hand of Aidan Grant. The rebound fell to Maguire at a narrow angle but his shot was fired wide across goal.
Spartans’ perseverance paid off less than two minutes later and it was a familiar face that dragged the visitors level. Dale got himself on the end of a weighted ball into the left side of the Corby box and casually stroked the ball across Grant to score his second goal of the season.
And Blyth really should have been ahead as the half-hour mark approached.
Richardson’s ball high into the heavens was poorly dealt with by Town’s defence allowing Maguire to nip in and steal possession back just yards from goal, but Spartans’ top scorer so far this season could only fizz his effort wide.
Pattison then hit one high and wide, but was unlucky when another chance presented itself two minutes later. Great link-up between Alex Nicholson and Rivers saw the former cross in low following a one-two. Pattison raced to meet it, but a bobble meant that he was unable to catch the ball properly and it went wide once more.
While Spartans were in the ascendancy, Corby cropped up with three minutes left in the first half to remind them they were still in the contest.
Liam Marshall’s free kick into the box from halfway was nodded away, but only as far as Milnes. Looking to repeat his effort from the start of the half, he unleashed a strike towards the opposite corner this time but it went just wide of the post.
If Corby had felt unlucky to not go in ahead, they must have thought they’d won the lottery when they went 2-1 up within a minute of the restart.
A harmless enough shot from Crawford on the right seemed to be an easy gather for Jeffries, but the Spartans keeper tried to gather the ball in his hands, but it escaped his grasp and rolled into the path of Orenuga who was left with the easy task of stabbing the ball home on the slide.
Corby were nearly gifted another goal when Nathan Buddle was caught in possession by Michael Ogilvie at the edge of the Blyth box. The substitute was in one-on-one with Jeffries but dragged his shot wide when it was easier to score.
If Spartans had been let off by Corby’s first substitute of the afternoon, their second was not in any sort of mood to pass up the chance of a goal on 52 minutes.
Draper, who had replaced Reece Webb at the start of the second half, picked up a loose ball 25 yards out and fired a first-time rocket at goal which flew through a crowd of bodies and into the top corner.
Taking confidence from his earlier goal, Dale tried to emulate Draper’s effort when he picked the ball up in a similar area two minutes later. He opted to curl it into the bottom corner instead, but Grant got down to keep it out.
Things could have been even worse for the visitors on the hour-mark when Corby looked certain to score a fourth. Jeffries’ save from Crawford’s shot sat up perfectly for both Milnes and Ogilvie at the back post, where the latter blasted an effort back towards goal. His strike clattered down off the crossbar and bounced down, but without the help of goal-line technology referee Mark Howes and his assistant made the decision that it had not crossed the line.
Just less than 15 minutes after Corby were denied from close range, Spartans were left cursing their luck from similar range after some fine defending denied them a lifeline.
Dale’s cross to the far post was touched down beautifully by Rivers into the feet of Richardson three yards out. However, before the former Newcastle United midfielder could put the ball home, the Corby captain led by example to take the ball off his toes with a last-ditch challenge.
Reid finally gave Spartans hope when he rose up to nod in Turnbull’s corner on 87 minutes, but it was not without controversy.
The ball cannoned off the crossbar and down to the line, with Duran Martin desperate to hack it away. While Corby had seen one ruled out earlier, referee Howes and his assistant on the other side had deemed Reid’s effort to have crept over and awarded the goal.
Within two minutes Blyth were level once again. Dale, who had forced Grant into a fantastic save to concede a corner, picked the loose ball up from the resulting set-piece and fired home his second to send the travelling supporters into ecstasy behind the goal.
However, their joy was to be short-lived as Corby claimed the spoils with a winner deep into stoppage time. Crawford reacted quickest to a nod on from a free kick and was able to flick a foot at the ball two yards out to put it past an exposed Jeffries.
Having slumped to their third successive defeat in all competitions, Spartans will hope the appointment of Armstrong will inspire them to a better result when they welcome Spennymoor Town to Croft Park on Tuesday night.
Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Nicholson (Cartwright 65), C Bell, Buddle, Hutchinson, Turnbull, Rivers, Pattison (Reid 65) , Maguire, Richardson (Armstrong 77), Dale. Subs not used: Wade, Parker.