IT SEEMED an agonising wait for the referee to declare Accrington Stanley's clash at Aldershot on - but the long wait for the Reds to reach the Football League is hopefully almost over.
After a four hour car journey, the news of a pitch inspection and then the sight of the referee kicking a football through puddles was certainly testing on the Accrington fans who had made the long journey on a Tuesday night.
But, once the game got the thumbs up, the performance of the Reds was anything but testing as they got into top gear in the second half and destroyed the Shots who hadn't been beaten at home since September.
Manager John Coleman, whose side recorded their 10th straight league win, admitted: "It is the first time in a while I have got through injury time without actually chewing my nails to my elbow!"
There was a stunning solo effort from Ian Craney, two well-taken goals from Gary Roberts and a great finish from super sub Andy Mangan all in 21 minutes as the Reds maintained their 16 point gap at the top of the table.
The only downside was the sending off of hard-working left back Leam Richardson in injury time for a second bookable offence.
And there was the disappointment that main rivals Hereford, after trailing 1-0 at Gravesend and having a man sent off, had come back to make sure they continue to press the Reds for as long as they can.
But neither could take anything away from a great team show at the Recreation Ground.
It was horrendous, after the rain-affected journey, to be told there was a pitch inspection. It got worse when referee M Bull was stuck in traffic and the waiting went on.
Then, when he finally arrived, all eyes were on him and his officials as they examined seemingly every blade of grass as the drizzle persisted.
But then there was a whoop of delight from Aldershot manager Terry Brown as the game got the green light - greeted by huge sighs of relief from anyone who had made the trip to Hampshire.
Coleman made just one change from the side which beat Crawley on Saturday, with the ill Michael Welch returning and Andy Tretton dropping out with a thigh strain.
And, for the second game running, Richardson had to pull of a stunning early goalline clearance following a powerful header from Shots' Ryan Cross.
David Brown had an early chance for the Reds when Andy Todd put him in but his low left foot shot canoned off the post - although the off-side flag had aready gone up.
There were half chances up until the 26th minute when the experienced Darren Barnard made keeper Rob Elliot pull off another of his stunning saves when he blasted the ball goalwards from 20 yards - but Elliot was there again to push it out.
And then winger Todd could have scored one of his greatest goals as he charged down the wing from inside of his own half. He outmuscled the Shots defence and finished with a fierce shot which hit the post.
The news filtered through that Hereford had gone behind and were down to 10 men but there was still a lot of work to do at the Recreation Ground.
Nikki Bull made a superb reflex save from Brown while, on the stroke of half-time, Gary Roberts made space for himself and whipped a ball across the goal which Brown just couldn't get a final touch on.
However, the half-time energy drink did the trick as, within three minutes, Stanley had taken the lead.
It all came from a controversial Aldershot corner which the home side made a mess of and Stanley broke.
Shots boss Brown was screaming "watch the runner" but it was too late as Richardson set Craney free and he charged from the half-way line in front of the home defence and fired low and hard past Bull for his 10th league goal of the season and he did he enjoy it.
There was a slight worry as Shots sub Leroy Griffiths headed inches wide moments later as Brown went for a more attacking formation.
But, within 16 minutes of the second half, Stanley were two up and in control. A Danny Ventre throw in was collected by Rommy Boco who twisted and turned and passed to Todd.
The winger blasted the ball across goal, Mullin dummied it and it fell nicely for unmarked Roberts to lash the ball into the net.
Five minutes later and Andy Mangan had only been on the pitch a minute but he was still alert to fire home his sixth of the season after Bull was caught in two minds after a long ball forward and the teenager pounced and rounded the keeper.
It should have been game over but Coleman admitted his heart was in his mouth when Griffiths had a free header to make it 3-1 with 20 minutes to go.
Stanley had a penalty appeal turned down for a push on Mangan but the manager didn't quite have time to start gnawing at his fingernails as Mullin fed sub Steve Jagielka who, with his first touch, put in a low ball to the far post which Roberts and defender Lewis Hamilton scrambled over the line - but it was given to the winger and he said he did get a touch.
There was still time for Elliot to again show what he can do punching out what looked like a certain Nick Crittenden goal and for Richardson, on 83 minutes, to pick up what looked like a harmless booking for time wasting as he took a throw in.
It turned out to be important as, in the fifth minute of injury time, the left back jumped up to block a ball with his hands in the air - and was walking back to the dug-out.
Coleman was furious: "The first booking's a joke," he fumed. "Leam hasn't done any time-wasting at all and he's been booked because the referee's had a whim. Leam hasn't wasted time, he's looked to throw the ball down the line, there was nobody on, so he's turned to throw it. He hasn't even wasted three seconds."
But, with one negative, there were plenty of positives to take from the win for the boss.
"To get three points is magnificent for us. The lads worked thoroughly hard and I think Aldershot deserve a great deal of credit for getting the game on and showing a great deal of spirit in the game.
"I was quite happy with the pitch, apart from the puddles. The ball was always going to zip about.
"Obviously it's cut up a bit because it's had a lot of water on it. But we'll play on a lot worse than that before the season's out.
"These away games seem to be following a similar pattern. We have to soak up a lot of pressure and then we hit teams on the break.
"It took a little bit longer than normal to score, but when we got our goal it settled us down. Aldershot then obviously had to commit more men forward, we did counter attack well and we got some great goals."
He admitted his free-scoring side just seem to time it all to perfection.
"We have a knack of scoring at the right time to take the pressure off us and we did that again.
"It was a quality finish by Ian, I'm delighted for Gary getting two. I know people will question that last goal but he definitely got his foot on it.
"And I'm delighted for Andy to get his goal. He's worked hard in training this week and we always say that if he works hard he'll get his reward.
"And our lads defended well. Welchy's been ill this week and it was a big performance from him. There was another big performance from Danny Ventre with some crucial tackles, Leam Richardson has dug in and done well, and Phil's kept them at bay for a long time, and Robbie Elliot's chipped in with two great saves."