Northern were handed a lifeline towards league safety as they moved outside the relegation zone with a bonus point win over Percy Park.
But Park should have put the McCracken Park side away when comfortably ahead 24-12 in the second half, only for the home side to battle back and take the lead eight minutes from time.
Percy Park were forced into making no fewer than six changes to the side that sneaked a one point win over Westoe the previous weekend, with coach Lome Fa’atau coming into the team for the injured Rich Berne, and lock Eddie Saint and Lions skipper Steve Lenehan making their first XV debuts.
On a decent surface, both sides played open rugby that at times was a little frantic with defensive lapses opening up gaps all over the field.
Park started brightly, showing that they can play good rugby and punished Northern when Michael Langlands went over in the corner on 24 minutes after a long period of pressure, during which the hosts conceded numerous penalties and were reduced to 14 with a player sent to the sin bin.
Northern struck back within minutes when centre Harrison Clark carved a gap through the Park midfield to score an unconverted try to level the scores.
Park seemed to have the upper hand in the scrums and scored their second try from a set-piece when Ethan Wilson broke to feed scrum-half Davy Kay and he put Michael Grove in space. The Park full-back had wing Fa’atau in support but backed himself for the line and scored, converting his own try to lead 12-5.
Northern came straight back and were awarded a penalty ten metres from the Park line. A quick tap caught the visitors napping and Chris Ewar scored with Donal Collins adding the extras to once again draw level, which was how the half ended.
Park were again ahead five minutes into the second half after Kay set Fa’atau away down the right hand side. The Park wing kicked ahead and won the foot race to the ball to kick on again. The ball crossed the Northern line and the Samoan got fingertips to it for the try which Northern disputed, but the score stood.
The visitors then added to the score four minutes later when again Fa’atau went over. This time Grove was on target with the conversion as Park led 24-12.
When Park should have stepped on the gas, they let Northern back into the game as wing Lester Bell went over in the right corner unmarked at the ruck.
Less than three minutes later with Park on the attack, Harrison Clark intercepted a pass and raced 60 yards to score the home side’s bonus point try. Collins missed the conversion, but soon after had the chance to make amends with a penalty which he fluffed, and Park maintained a slender two points lead going into the last ten minutes of the game.
The home side began to have belief in themselves and when lock Tom Schofield went over for a 74th minute try, which was converted by Collins, Northern took the lead for the first time in the match.
Park tried hard to get a fifth try that would have sealed the victory, and in the 80th minute seemed to have an overlap down the left wing. Paul Spowart, who had replaced Thomas Turnbull at fly-half, opted to chip ahead and the ball went into touch. The referee indicated last play of the game as Northern won their own lineout and kicked the ball off the field of play as the final whistle blew.
In truth either side could have won the game, and despite the disappointment of losing twice this season to Northern, Park played some entertaining rugby but seemed to run out of steam in the last 20 minutes.
Next week Park travel to Mitford Road to take on Morpeth in a re-arranged league match that had earlier been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch in January.