Lee Molyneux’s first-half hat-trick proved enough to clinch a crucial win against Stanley’s relegation rivals Barnet on Saturday.
After making a superb start, the Reds were left sweating for their first win in four as Barnet pulled two goals back before player-coach Edgar Davids was sent off late on – just as he was in the reverse fixture.
Although the three points weren’t enough to lift Stanley off the bottom of League Two, it took them level with the visitors and three other teams on 40 points, setting up an enthralling finish to the season.
The build-up had been dominated by the club’s admission that wages weren’t paid on time this month but chairman Peter Marsden urged fans to fill the ground and get behind the team.
He got the desired response as a crowd of 1,559 cheered the Reds on from the first kick and Barnet seemed to wilt under the pressure with a series of first-half errors.
Although Lawrence Wilson’s inswinging free kick went just wide, it was an even start until John Oster’s misplaced pass rolled into Molyneux’s path in the eighth minute.
The 24-year-old was one of three players recalled by Leam Richardson following the midweek defeat by Fleetwood and, playing left midfield, he took his chance.
With the Barnet defence flat-footed, he took two touches before letting fly from 25 yards, hitting a left-footed strike into the bottom corner.
Barnet replied by forcing Paul Rachubka to tip over a Jake Hyde header. Hyde then had two shots blocked by Luke Joyce and Tom Aldred, with Rachubka denying Mauro Vilhete from the resulting corner.
Aldred went close from a Wilson free kick before Barnet centre-back Chiro N’Toko gifted Francis Jeffers possession and his low strike was parried by keeper Graham Stack.
And a third loose pass in the Barnet half allowed Joyce to win the ball back for Stanley’s second goal in the 25th minute.
Jeffers played it back to Molyneux and this time he tried his luck from 35 yards, unleashing a swerving, dipping shot which left Stack grasping at thin air and flew under the Barnet bar.
Molyneux has adopted a shoot-on-sight policy since his match-winning brace at Rochdale and who could blame him when he can strike a ball like that?
Peter Murphy replaced the injured Nicky Hunt at right-back and he soon tackled Davids before playing in Jeffers, leading to the Reds’ third in the 34th minute.
N’Toko’s clumsy challenge brought down Jeffers and although he must have been eager to open his Accy account, he let Molyneux take the penalty and fire into the bottom right corner for his hat-trick.
Before last month the ex-Everton trainee had scored two goals in his whole career. That goal made it five in three weeks.
Barnet put N’Toko out of his misery by replacing him moments later and the Bees gave themselves a lifeline on the stroke of half-time, Barry Fuller heading a cross back across goal for Elliot Johnson to volley home from six yards.
Barnet regrouped at half-time and shortly after the break, Rachubka did well to keep out Hyde’s free header with his right foot.
But the Reds’ keeper had no chance in the 63rd minute when Fuller crossed from the right and Ross Jenkins produced a textbook overhead kick from just inside the box to make it 3-2.
Substitute Craig Beattie fired over as the visitors pushed for an equaliser but Stanley stood firm and looked to be safe in the 86th minute when Davids was shown a second yellow after fouling sub James Gray twice in quick succession.
Yet the Reds faithful had to watch keeper Stack go forward for a corner and have a shot blocked before they could celebrate a much-needed victory.
Stanley : Rachubka 7, Hunt 6 (Murphy 26, 7), Winnard 8, Aldred 8, Wilson 6, Boco 6, Joyce 7, Linganzi 6, Molyneux 8, Hatfield 6 (Lindfield 62, 6), Jeffers 7 (Gray 68, 7). Not used: Beattie, Liddle, Miller, Dunbavin.