Moseley 19 Waterloo 13

This was an occasion to evoke memories of a bygone age. Two famous old clubs playing for high stakes, with frenzied disregard for personal safety and in the process watched by a large and partisan crowd. It was splendid stuff.

And when - with about ten minutes to go - a guttural roar of 'Moseley, Moseley' went up around all four sides of the Common, it did so with more conviction than at possibly any other time in the last five years.

Perhaps because the home team were on the brink of winning their most crucial fixture for many seasons, a nerve-shredding top-of-the-table clash against Waterloo, opponents physically bigger and stronger and bent on revenge.

The Fancy Dans from Birmingham had, after all, cantered up to Blundellsands four months ago and rubbed their hosts' collective snout in the dirt; the Merseysiders were desperate to repay the debt.

Throw into the cocktail a handful of league points and the promise of promotion and a most volatile mixture is produced. That's before the game started.

The masses, not far off 1,000 of them, imbibed greed-ily an encounter that lived up to all expectations. Moseley led early on thanks to a delicious counter-attack try from Nathan Bressington and seemed to be coasting until they had Ben Buxton sent off.

The loosehead prop was yesterday banned for six weeks by the club and faces a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing next month, at which that suspension will almost certainly be lengthened.

It was backs-to-the-wall time. Wave after wave of the northern hordes battered away and, time and time again, the brave defenders knocked them down without a single thought for their own welfare.

The assault went on right until the final whistle, too. Three minutes into added time, Waterloo scrum-half Craig Aikman surely got over for his second try, only for two Moseley players to break his fall. It was absolutely compelling.

In the end, the few out-fought the many and victorious director of rugby John Beale was more than happy to deliver a short history lesson.

"In terms of the commitment, down to 14 men in the second half, I cannot remember another time when a Moseley first team has done that," Beale said, barely able to contain his smile.

"You'd probably have to go back to 1972 and the first cup final, when we were down to 13 men against Gloucester and only just lost."

Yet this Moseley team is a different vintage at a different stage. The early-1970s version operated at the top of the game, stuffed with internationals past, present or future and breaking scoring records for fun.

The current squad is still developing, as many, maybe even more, questions than answers exist but, for the time being, they are scrapping together to return the club back to the second flight of English rugby.

They had a go at it last year, but lost too many important games. The team they chased, Newbury, beat them home and away. This year, they have done the double over their quarry.

Beale sees it as a big moment, both individually and collectively. "That was a massive mountain to have climbed," he said. "They are a big side, one-dimensional to be honest - they try to play some rugby, but they are not very fluent in the backs - but up front, they are a bloody handful.

"The content of the game is immaterial, what is relevant is the manner in which the result was produced and the outcome itself."

Moseley remain in second place but have closed the gap to two points with a game in hand - against bottom-placed Orrell. With two to go up and their confidence sky high, they truly are masters of their own destiny.

Their remaining fixtures are kind without being over-generous; third-placed Esher still have to come to Billesley Common, while Moseley have to visit Barking and, next week, Wharfedale.

But if they can reproduce the combination of gutsy determination and skill under pressure they came up with on Saturday, elevation should be theirs.

Especially if the pack continue to defy opponents in the same manner. Waterloo were desperate to get their giant props, Martin O'Keefe and Sean Ruwers, on the ball and when they did, they looked brutally effective.

But led by the frenetic Neil Mason - he has to be the best back-row forward outside the Premiership - the home defence kept tackling their hearts out.

Richard Stott was a giant in the lineout and was largely responsible for messing up the visitors' throw-in, while the entire front row held up well in the scrum.

In the loose, James Rodwell confirmed his growing stature as one of the quickest No 8s around and Dean Bick and Neil Bayliss battled themselves to a standstill.

Out wide, Ollie Thomas was perfect with the boot, his second-half penalty and dropped goal came at crucial moments, while the backs produced the one moment of class that arguably proved the difference.

Leading 6-3, Bayliss turned over ball on his own 22 and it was spun quickly to the right wing. Rodwell and Mark Evans cracked the defence for Andy Binns and Bressington to complete what Beale described as the best try of the season. And perhaps the most important.