Middlesbrough 5 Nuneaton Borough 2
For nine whole days, it was a dream . . . Coventry City v Nuneaton Borough in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
But that dream of a local cup derby was shattered last night as Steve McClaren's struggling Middlesbrough finally found their touch.
Five goals in 28 minutes either side of half-time earned the Premiership team a safe passage to the last 32, and booked that trip to Coventry's Ricoh Stadium on Saturday week.
But, on a night when the Boro's 5,000 very vocal visiting fans turned the Riverside into the sort of cauldron of noise one doesn't expect to hear at Premiership grounds these days, it was Roger Ashby's non-Leaguers who somehow still seemed to steal the show.
Admittedly, McClaren was without nine injured players, plus the suspended Doriva. But he could still afford to leave out the unsettled Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, to avoid the risk of him being 'cup-tied' for any potential buyers over the next fortnight.
And Ugo Ehiogu was not called upon, despite the supposed collapse of his long drawn out move to West Bromwich Albion.
Yet it was still a feather in the cap for Ashby's men when they started as brightly as they did.
Roared on by the River-side's largest ever away following (most of whom sadly missed Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Redditch), the visitors twice could have taken the lead inside the opening seven minutes.
Gez Murphy - Boro's late hero at Manor Park - wriggled his way clear to latch on to Matty Collins' pass. And he produced not only a turn of pace, but a powerful low shot to match.
It was just too close to the keeper, however, enabling Brad Jones to snake out an arm to his right and make a brilliant save.
There was also an opening for Murphy's strike partner Brian Quailey, who shot just past Jones' right post.
Such encouraging signs of attacking promise brought a cheeky chant of 'We Want Seven' from the singing Boro' contingent, in the vain hope that Ashby's honest triers could somehow repeat Arsenal's magnificent weekend goal blitz against Middlesbrough. A cause for laughter at the time. But how painfully was such a taunt to rebound?
At least Boro's early passion made for an uncomfortable half-hour for the home side. Middlesbrough managed just one shot on target when, unattended ten yards out, Mark Viduka brought a save out of Darren Acton. But the home nerves were finally settled by their stand-in skipper.
Riggott, who had stayed forward following a corner, was picked out by Matthew Bates' hopeful ball from the right and the Middlesbrough captain coolly turned to flick an instinctive lob over Acton from 20 yards out.
Eight minutes later the lead was doubled to effectively end the tie as a contest. It was that late Manor Park penalty which kept this tie alive ten days before, and again last night's pivotal moment came via the spot.
Not that there was any doubting the validity of Middlesbrough's spot-kick.
Chasing a through ball from Aiyegbeni Yakubu, Spanish international Gaizka Mendieta was a touch ponderous, and had to check his run to turn inside.
But he found himself clumsily flattened in the box by a back-tracking Stuart Whittaker. Yakubu kept his cool to send Acton the wrong way.
And Middlesbrough, confidence restored, re-emerged after the break looking more like a Premier-ship side playing against non-League opponents.
They had doubled their lead by the hour mark, with further goals from Stuart Parnaby and a deftly-taken finish by Yakubu. Then it was 5-0, when Viduka fired home confidently.
Boro were well and truly on the run. And, with visiting heads having slumped, the rest of the night could have turned into a horror show.
But, to their immense credit, the visitors rallied. Murphy again showed his penchant for the TV cameras by pulling one back. Cashing in on Jones' misjudgment from
Acton's goalkick, he nipped in to head home before galloping off to celebrate in front of the 5,000.
After Acton had twice thwarted Yakubu's bid for a hat-trick, there was even time for a second from Murphy, from the spot, after he had been felled by Ray Parlour. And there might have been a third but for a fine save that denied sub Martin Reeves in the dying seconds.
But, outclassed though they were in the end, there had been plenty to send those fans home proud and happy.