THE emotional celebrations at the end of Stanley's euphoric victory at St James Park said it all.
When the final whistle blew, after six nerve jangling minutes of injury time, the coaching staff raced onto the pitch and hugged the players, the players celebrated with each other and the small band of travelling fans went wild as the Reds overcame the tricky task of play-off rivals Exeter - and are now gunning for leaders Barnet.
Manager John Coleman admitted he thought a point would have been good at City who are chasing promotion and were brought to the nation's attention with their two FA Cup clashes with Manchester United.
But, from the windy south, the Reds returned with all three points and, while every one of the side played their part, there were two real Stanley heroes.
Hitman Lee McEvilly finished superbly for both goals taking his tally in all competitions to 16 for the season. He kept his head and composure to both times fire the ball past Paul Jones, the teenage keeper who had won so much applause for his performances against Sir Alex Ferguson's men.
And, at the other end, Stanley shot-stopper Paul Crichton had an inspired day as he batted away almost everything Exeter threw at him as they launched wave after wave of attacks early in the second half. City had 16 shots at Stanley's goal and only one could find a way past Crichton. Stanley had five - and took two.
Coleman had criticised his team in the past for not taking the opportunities but he only had words of praise for his players who have won four of their last five Conference clashes and are now perched nicely on the edge of the promotion places.
"It was as good as it gets for Lee," enthused the boss. "Forget his goals, we like our strikers to score, but it was his overall performance. He led the line with Mullers (Paul Mullin), who was great as well, and he has covered a number of positions, done well on the wide, he has defended well and come back and headed a few away. He's kept a hell of a lot of possession for us and it was an all-round brilliant performance."
It was backs-to-the wall stuff in the latter part of the second half, as Stanley threw defender Jonathan Smith on and went five at the back.
But Exeter couldn't find a way through - and the three points were huge for the Reds.
"We realised we couldn't afford to lose this game," continued Coleman, "The situation they are in meant they would have gone above us with two games in hand. A draw would have been a good result. I know they missed a couple of chances but we missed a couple as well and on the balance of play, I think we deserved to win the game.
"We have worked really hard and had to adapt our system once or twice but every player gave 100 per cent.
"Chris Butler was feeling a bit ill and he has got raped a couple of times but Cav (Peter Cavanagh) has gone to left back and nullified the threat.
"And Paul Crichton has made a couple of great saves. He is a good experience goalkeeper and he and all the defence have done well. Exeter have put one over which was apparently off-side anyway and Cricht's has made a save with a header but, with 20 minutes to go they haven't really made another chance. Your heart is in your mouth but we have defended quite comfortably."
Stanley got off to a dream start. They did have one nervy moment when Robbie Williams cleared a Jake Edwards effort from a corner off the line but they were one-nil up with eight minutes gone.
Mullin flicked the ball on for McEvilly who ran into the box and finished superbly, firing home from a tight angle. The 22-year-old is banging in goals for fun at the moment and once the ball left his foot, Jones was beaten.
City were shell-shocked by the goal and they were reliant on Alex Jeannin's inswinging corners early on and although these caused problems, Stanley dealt with them.
However, they equalised on 25 minutes when top scorer Sean Devine broke on the right. It was like pin-ball in the area as first Dean Moxey had a go and his shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced out.
It only came as far as Jake Edwards who was able to fire the ball into the net past Crichton for the equaliser.
Stanley could have replied immediately when McEvilly had another chance but it was straight at Jones before City midfielder Kwame Ampudu tried his luck from 25 yards and was only inches wide of the diving Crichton's post.
Then it became the Crichton show as he pulled off string after string of good saves to keep out the lively Exeter attack,
Edwards raced past Cavanagh and drilled in an effort from the edge of the area which the keeper pushed out; Devine then fired a 20-yard free kick just over while the the hitman blasted another long range effort in which was saved by the keeper four minutes before half-time.
Crichton was there again when another Devine shot came at him and Williams cleared a Jeannin corner off the line to keep it level at the interval.
After the break, the swirling wind continued to play its part and Exeter tried to take full advantage. Winger Les Afful suddenly came into his own and had a right foot shot parried away by Crichton and then he skied an effort five yards from goal when it looked easier to score.
An Andy Taylor free kick was bundled clear and Afful raced clean through but once again Crichton denied him. Then Jeannin had a free header from a Afful cross but amazingly Crichton once more kept him at bay.
And Exeter were made to pay when the Stanley keeper's goal kick was missed by Santos Gaia in the wind and McEvilly pounced. He still had a bit to do but raced into the area and finished superbly for a breakaway goal on 57 minutes.
The home side, spurred on by their 4000-strong crowd, kept pressing and should have levelled again when Afful's ball in found Devine unmarked but he fired over from six yards out.
Coleman then switched it around as Butler came off, Howarth came on into the right back slot and Cavanagh went to left back. And Smith soon entered the fray as Stanley went five at the back, with McEvilly switching to the right wing slot as they defended their lead.
Exeter struggled to cope with this in the final 20 minutes, hardly getting into the Reds area as they held firm.
And Rory Prendergast had a great chance to finish them off on 88 minutes when he broke and shot from 25 yards - and he wasn't far off.
There were six agonising minutes of injury time and the Exeter players were livid as they felt Smith had fouled Steve Flack in the area in the last of these - but the tall striker seemed to be looking for it.
"Everyone played their part," said Coleman. "We have a small squad - 17 - but they have all got a job to do and part to play. Smithy has come on and won a lot of headers and been brave at the back. It was a good team performance."