Huddersfield town 3 PNE 2
Jordan Hugill, who looked to have been the PNE hero with a headed equaliser 11 minutes from time, was penalised by referee Lee Probert for supposedly pushing Elias Kachunga in the box long after the ball had been cleared up field.
And whilst Chris Maxwell saved Aaron Mooy’s resulting penalty, substitute Colin Quaner fired home the rebound to give the home side a 3-2 victory.
The Lilywhites had taken a first half lead from another stunning Aiden McGeady strike from 25 yards, but goals from Kachunga and substitute Jack Payne had put the Terrier in front, until Hugill converted Tom Barkhuizen’s cross.
But what had come before was all overshadowed by the dramatic ending, when the winning goal scored six minutes into the four signalled to be added on.
North End were indebted to goalkeeper Maxwell early on, making a fine save to keep out a shot from Kachunga that had taken a wicked deflection off Paul Huntington, but the Welsh stopper – who was pretty much untroubled for the majority of the game despite the home side having more of the ball – managed to change direction and got don low to his right to keep out the goalbound effort.
The visitors suffered an early blow when they lost skipper and former Huddersfield man Tom Clarke with what appeared to be a serious injury to his Achilles, Tomm Spurr coming on at left back and Greg Cunningham moving to centre half.
But the away following were brought off their feet by the opener, however, as Paul Gallagher found McGeady in a right hand channel who collected the ball, burst forward with pace and arrowed a superb and unstoppable effort from 25 yards into the top right hand corner of Danny Ward’s goal.
David Wagner’s side had plenty of possession, but did little to harm the yellows, Simon Grayson getting men behind the ball and allowing their hosts to have the ball in their own half, however, they went into the break level thanks to a set piece.
Aaron Mooy delivered an inswinger from the left hand side and Kachunga got free of his marker and was able to head home unchallenged from close range to give the score an unfair reflection at the interval.
And the home side turned the game on its head with 20 minutes to go through a first half substitute of their own. A cross field ball from left to right had found Kachunge, who somewhat sliced his cross, but it landed perfectly onto the head of Jack Payne – who had replaced Philip Billing just after the half hour mark – who converted from a yard out.
A change in formation to a 3-5-2 saw North End back on top, however, and they deservedly drew level in the 79th minute. The move started in their own half, again with McGeady, who drove 50 yards – at one point playing a deliberate one-two off an opposition player – before feeding Johnson in the box. The midfielder got to the byline before pulling the ball back to Barkhuizen, who crossed from the right for Hugill to powerfully head home his 12th goal of the season from eight yards out.
And the No.25 almost put the Lilywhites back in front just three minutes later as another sub, Daryl Horgan collected the ball on the right that had been flicked on from a long Spurr throw in on the opposite side and delivered a cross back to the back post to where the big striker was again positioned, but this time he could not keep him header down, flashing past Ward, but also just over the cross bar.
But the game came to a dramatic conclusion in injury time.
The fourth official had signalled four minutes added time, in which both sides went for the win, but in the final minute, with time virtually over North End cleared the ball upfield, but with Barkhuizen chasing it down Probert called the play back and eventually, after two minutes of debate, awarded a penalty, for what afterwards he told manager Grayson had been a push by Hugill on Kachunga after the ball had gone, despite video evidence incontrovertibly proving otherwise.
Maxwell’s mind games with Mooy worked as he chose the right way to make a brilliant sprawling stop, his fifth of the season, but Quaner, who had come on with four minutes to go, reacted quickest and somehow threaded a shot past a sliding tackle from Greg Cunningham to give the third-placed side the points.
Huddersfield Town line-up: Ward, Smith (c), Hogg, Billing (Payne, 36 (Hudson, 90)), Kachunga, Mooy, Lowe, Van La Parra, Wells (Quaner, 86), Schindler, Hefele. Subs not used: Coleman, Whitehead, Scannell, Cranie.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Vermijl (Browne, 89), Cunningham, Pearson, Clarke (c) (Spurr, 17), Huntington, McGeady, Gallagher (Horgan, 74), Barkhuizen, Hugill, Johnson. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Makienok, Beckford, Robinson.
Attendance: 21,254 (1,679 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr L Probert