Ryan Taylor wrestled the spotlight away from Pompey’s Cambridge heroes to inspire a remarkable Fratton Park victory last night.
Andy Awford’s men were heading for a 2-0 defeat to Tranmere Rovers when the clock struck 76 minutes, as they struggled for attacking fluidity.
Then followed an unlikely, but magnificent fightback as the Blues turned the match on its head to secure a 3-2 success.
At the heart of it was Taylor – the striker often criticised by the Fratton faithful for his scoring record, but definitely not work rate.
In the Abbey Stadium 6-2 romp on Saturday, is efforts were eclipsed by Matt Tubbs’ hat-trick and Jed Wallace’s wondershow, despite netting a goal and an assist himself.
But at a jubilant Fratton Park last night, two goals in the final eight minutes clinched a famous triumph for Awford’s in-form side.
Substitute Craig Westcarr had already halved Rovers’ 2-0 lead with 14 minutes remaining when he glanced home Tubbs’ cross.
Then Taylor drove home an 82nd-minute half-volley, before heading home Dan Butler’s right-wing corner at the far post.
Incredible stuff from the Blues, who had trailed to Jennison Myrie-Williams’ left-foot finish midway through the first half – and a calamitous own goal when Joe Devera volleyed his clearance against the back of keeper Paul Jones just after the break
Then came the storming finale as Pompey made it three wins in a row and six matches unbeaten overall.
For the fifth game in succession Awford named the same starting line-up – unsurprisingly sticking with the side who had been performing so consistently in recent weeks.
The bench was also unchanged for a third consecutive fixture, with Nicky Shorey, Patrick Agyemang and Adam Webster once more missing out.
The only other absence from the match-day 18 was Paul McCallum, who is still serving a seven-match ban following his Southend dismissal.
Fresh from the demolition of Cambridge on Saturday, it took the Blues just 49 seconds to have their first attempt on goal.
Taylor’s brave far-post header was hooked off the line by Marc Laird as the visitors scrambled the early effort clear.
In response, Tranmere forced a third-minute corner down the right.
The ball was delivered into the Blues’ penalty area, only for the unmarked Rory Donnelly to completely miss his kick.
It was Awford’s side, though, who began the stronger, displaying plenty of threat.
Wing-back Josh Passley, in particular, was finding space down the right flank.
On six minutes he galloped forward to fire in a shot which Owain Fon Williams pushed out, flinging himself spectacularly to his right-hand side.
Fortunately for the visitors, there was nobody on hand to capitalise as the ball bounced behind Pompey bodies, allowing the Rovers defence to hack the ball up the pitch.
At the other end, a superb run by Rob Taylor took him past three Blues players before feeding it wide, although Max Power’s left-wing cross was over-hit for Kayode Odejayi at the far post and Butler cleared.
On 18 minutes, Adam Dugdale produced a timely clearing near-post header to keep out Wallace’s dangerous low cross, winning the hosts a corner.
Yet, moments later, Micky Adams’ side wasted a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock following a piece of poor decision-making from Donnelly.
The on-loan striker surged down the left on the counter-attack, with Laird making ground on the far side as a realistic option.
But instead of picking his team-mate out, the youngster opted to fire wide of the target.
Donnelly threw his arms in the air at his colleagues afterwards, but only had himself to blame for failing to capitalise on a promising position.
Then Danny Holmes sent a swerving shot over the bar from the right, although Jones was fully in control of the situation.
It prompted Wallace to drill in two crosses from the right which had the visiting defence in complete disarray, sparking scrambles by the near post as Taylor and Tubbs lurked with intent.
Yet, on 28 minutes it was Adams’ side who took the lead through Myrie-Williams.
The striker struck a precise shot from the left-hand side of the penalty area which found the far bottom corner to make it 1-0.
Afterwards, James Dunne picked up the first booking of the game following a crunching foul on Laird.
The yellow card could have been harsh but, all the same, it now keeps the midfielder out for two weeks through suspension.
On 33 minutes, Wallace drove in a low shot from distance but Fon Williams did well to gather the ball as it bounced dangerously in front of him.
Tranmere made a substitution at half-time, with Liam Ridehaigh coming on for Taylor, slotting into the left-hand side of their back three.
And within five minutes of the restart the visitors increased their lead through a disastrous own goal.
Holmes sent in a deep cross from the right which Odejayi challenged Jones aerially for.
And instead of mopping up the danger, Devera ended up crashing his clearance against the keeper, leaving the ball to find its way into the back of the net.
Faced with a two-goal deficit, on 56 minutes Awford introduced Andy Barcham for Devera, switching to a 4-4-2 formation as he searched for a way back into the match.
Moments later, Wallace threaded a pass down the middle for Tubbs but Fon Williams was equal to the striker’s shot, diving to his right to keep it out.
There was understandably a greater urgency about the Blues and Hollands saw a drive from long range deflected wide – and from the resulting left-wing corner the midfielder put a far-post header over the bar.
Pompey pulled one back in the 76th minute when Tubbs crossed from the right and Westcarr, on as a substitute for Passley, glanced home a header.
Awford then threw on Conor Chaplin for Hollands in the pursuit of an equaliser – and it came in the 82nd minute.
Butler put a cross in from the left, and when the ball bounced off a Tranmere defender, Taylor was there to half-volley it home to make it 2-2.
The scoring wasn’t over, however, and with five minutes remaining Butler delivered a corner from the right and Taylor popped up at the far post to plant a header home from the tightest of angles.
An unforgettable comeback and a remarkable result as Pompey’s resurgence gathers at pace.