Darlington’s fight against the relegation received a massive boost with a shock win against in-form Chester.

Having led 3-0 at the break, they had to show plenty of character when under the cosh in second-half, and then ten agonising minutes of added time to secure three points which lift the from the bottom of the table.

They began the day eight points from safety with Chester eighth and unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions, so few had predicted a home win for Quakers, who had not won at Blackwell in the league since March.

True to form, Chester started well and captain George Glendon was inches away from giving them an early lead. His 25-yard free-kick, after Kallum Griffiths brought down Adam Thomas, was tipped onto the post by Tommy Taylor before Quakers scrambled the ball away.

But they had a huge dollop of luck in taking the lead after 18 minutes. Ben Hedley delivered a cross to the far post and, in attempting to clear, despite not being under serious pressure Chester left-back Joel Taylor managed to send a looping header over goalkeeper Wyll Stanway.

Chester responded well, but seconds after referee Alex Sawden waved away Glendon’s penalty appeal, after being nudged by Will Hatfield, Quakers went 2-0 ahead.

Hedley’s free-kick was met by Cameron Salkeld on the right, and he charged into the 18-yard box before drilling low into the net.

And before half-time Darlington had another goal, completing a remarkable first 45 minutes, when the recalled Jarrett Rivers released Jonny Ngandu and he tucked the ball under Stanway.

Clearly, Quakers will have wanted to protect their three-goal lead for as long as possible, knowing Chester would respond, but their fightback began 12 minutes after the restart.

Just as Quakers’ first goal was fortuitous, there was some luck involved as Declan Weeks’ shot was deflected into the net off Tom Peers.

Chester continued to attack with Darlington having to defend for long spells and with 20 minutes to go it was 3-2. After substitute Kieran Coates raided down the right crossed, Kevin Roberts’ header hit a post, and Glendon was on hand to scramble home.

It was game on for Chester and Quakers were under the cosh, though they wasted an opportunity to create breathing space when Jacob Hazel’s pass was overhit when trying to send Hatfield away.

Hazel had been dropped from the starting XI, replaced by Andrew Nelson, and there are now question marks over his future at the club with Scarborough and Farsley Celtic understood to be interested in signing him.

He came on after 80 minutes but he ended up playing for 20 minutes as the referee saw fit to play so much added time. Though standard procedure in VAR-affected top-level football, it’s highly unusual in non-league football for there to be ten added minutes.

Sawden exacerbated the situation by failing to inform the home bench how much added time would be played, therefore the number of additional minutes were not relayed to supporters, making the final stages excruciating for Darlington fans.

The whistle-blower littered the contest with ten yellow cards, four for Darlington, including a fifth of the season for Ngandu.

But there was still time for one more card after the final whistle finally blew at 5.04pm. This time Sawden showed a red to Peers following an altercation between both sets of players.

Darlington: Taylor Griffiths (Rowe 72), Lawlor, Burton, Hedley; Lindley, Hatfield; Salkeld (Moke 80), Ngandu, Rivers; Nelson (Hazel 80). Subs not used: Lees, Simms

Chester: Stanway; Sparrow, Williams (Burke 86), Edwards, Taylor (Coates 46); Roberts, Weeks, Glendon; Whitehouse; Thomas (Caton 58), Peers. Subs not used: Norton, Murray