DARLINGTON held on in a pulsating and nail-biting second half to record their first home league win of the season at Blackwell Meadows.

It was sheer agony for Darlington supporters as the referee added on ten long minutes of stoppage time at the end of the game, which shredded any nerves they had left as Chester launched a battling fightback against a three-goal half time lead that Quakers had built up.

But the home side showed plenty of resilience to hold on and record only their fourth home league win in the calendar year, and climb to third bottom in the table above Gloucester and Bishop’s Stortford.

A relieved Darlington manager, Josh Gowling, said: “The lads were absolutely outstanding. They stuck to the game-plan in the first half – we went into the game with a plan of how we could exploit Chester and I think we did just that.

“I thought we outplayed Chester in the first half, and outfought them a lot in the second. I was really pleased for the boys, and I was also really pleased that the fans could see a performance like that. It was a nail-biting second half, but we put the work in in the first half to get the points. The last ten minutes were a bit hairy!

“The lads all want to win for the club and to put in a performance. A 3-0 win is nice, but sometimes a 3-2 win when you’ve dug in and won in the end, is better. Chester will be there or thereabouts this season, so it is pleasing to get that win.

“It was a very good all-round performance, everybody worked hard. We’re off the bottom now and looking at that line above the relegation zone. We’ll keep working, there’s a lot more work to do.”

There was an indication that it might be Quakers’ day for a change when Kallum Griffths was penalised for a foul, and keeper Tommy Taylor managed to touch George Glenson’s free-kick against the post, and as the ball rolled back across the six-yard box, Ben Hedley managed to get his toe to the ball and clear the danger.

Quakers slowly got on top, and they took the lead on 17 minutes. Hedley crossed with his right foot from the left wing towards Cameron Salkeld at the far post, and Chester defender Joel Taylor tried to head the ball back to his keeper, but only succeeded in beating him with a looping header that dropped into the net.

The goal added to Darlington's determination to keep Chester out with some good interceptions and tackling, although their hearts were in their mouths when Glendon went down when challenged in the area, and the referee, who booked ten players in the game, waved play on.

They added the second with six minutes to go before half-time. Salkeld picked up a through ball ten yards outside the area, forced his way into the box and beat Chester keeper Will Stanway with a right-foot shot that went across him for his second goal in three games.

Darlington fans couldn’t believe it when the third goal came along on 42 minutes. Jarrett Rivers, who had been recalled to the side, slipped the ball through for Jonny Ngandu to collect and place past the advancing keeper for his first goal for the club.

Quakers were 3-0 up, but not quite coasting because rejuvenated Chester, who were unbeaten in four league games beforehand, had a real go at them in the second half.

They pulled one back on 57 minutes with a patient build up on the left, and Declan Weeks hit a right-foot shot that took a deflection on its way past Taylor.

Quakers were forced back, and their defenders had to make some good clearances before Chester got a second, when Kieran Coates crossed from the right for Kevin Roberts to head against the bar, and Glendon eventually forced the ball home.

That goal increased the tension and anxiety around the ground, but the introduction of three subs gave Quakers some fresh energy, and on 80 minutes one of those subs, Jacob Hazel, won possession and sent Hatfield away, but the skipper could only find the side netting.

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