Northwich Victoria players were left fuming on Saturday after Rocky Baptiste hit a controversial winner at the Aimita Stadium to send Farnborough Town flying into the top half of the Nationwide Conference Table.

Baptiste's winner came in the 94th minute of a game that had offered just about everything — controversy, a red-card, a penalty and more than just a few touches of magic here and there.

But just as the awkward striker turned away in celebration after slotting past Ben Connett in the Vics goal, visiting players protested to the linesman that the ball had not crossed the goal-line after rebounding off the post.

Their cries were in vain though, and moments later the referee, Roger East, blew for time to leave Boro celebrating whilst their mid-table friends were left on their knees on a rain-soaked Cherrywood Road pitch.

The result, to be fair, was entirely what Graham Westley's side deserved. However, it was a cruel way for Northwich - who had battled their way back into the game in fine style - to concede just when it looked like they would be the most likely to grab a late winner.

Yet despite the visitors looking lively in the closing stages, Boro earned this victory through hard work and their early dominance paid off for them as early as the fifth minute.

Baptiste, who has been at the centre of pretty much everything in recent weeks for Boro, curled in his sixth goal in five games from outside the area to score a goal pretty much out of nothing. And then just two minutes later, Baptiste laid on the second for Lenny Piper to score his 50th goal for the club in his 100th start.

From here Boro dominated, and their lead could have been extended through Chris Piper, Ken Charlery and Danny Carroll as Westley's men continued to find their way around what look a ragged Northwich defence.

Baptise yet again came close in the 28th minute when he rather snatched at a loose ball after a mistake by Gregor Rioch, sending his effort wide of the post as it seemd only a matter of time when Boro would extend their lead.

Yet for all their composure and creativity, Boro somehow found themselves on the receiving end of a rare Northwich attack in the 36th minute and when Jonny Allen slotted home into an empty net after good work by Greg Blundell on the left-hand side, the visitors then found the gear-stick after only just managing to find the keys to start the engine.

They now started to play some decent football and when Mark Devlin headed wide just minutes later, Boro were almost left scratching their heads, with their lead severely under threat.

Carroll, looking as impressive as ever in the middle of the park for Boro, then came close himself to relieving some of the pressure.

But the most bizarre moment in an entertaining half was left to the very last minute when Charlery appeared to score, lobbing the ball over Connett after being put through with a superb Carroll ball.

However, the linesman raised his flag and it appeared that there had been an offence by a Boro player and that the goal had been disallowed.

What happened next can only be defined as a comedy of errors. Shaun Came, the Northwich defender, was sent-off for handling the ball, after it had appeared to cross the goal-line.

The goal then didn't stand despite no offence from any Boro player and Rocky Baptiste, who remember earlier had scored from outside the area, failed to convert the penalty to leave both teams worse off when perhaps neither should have been - except possibly Northwich being 3-1 down to a perfectly legitimate goal which stood have stood.

Speaking after the match regarding the incident, Westley said: "Ken tells me that the ball was in the back of the net and that the fella pulled it back out of the net with his hand.

"The linesman has obviously seen him do that and felt that it deserved a sending-off. I find that a bit bizarre, as I have never seen the ball go in the back of the net and the goal disallowed, a penalty given and a guy sent-off under those circumstances.

"It was a very, very strange situation but I guess, and I hear from Ken, that the linesman's said it didn't cross the line and he's obviously made the decision to give the penalty."

The extra man however did begin to tell for Boro early in the second half and they started much in the same vain as they had done in the first, with quick passing and good movement as a barrage of chances were thrown at Connett in the Northwich goal.

Charlery really should have put the game out of sight in the 53rd minute with a free header after Lenny Piper's pin-point cross and Piper again came close with a surging run and shot three minutes later.

Baptiste continued to get in on the action though, and when the ball kindly fell to him outside the area in the 61st minute he tried his luck with an exquisite chip-shot which lobbed over the keeper, but, unfortunately the ball rebounded off the bar and only into the path of the on-rushing Lenny Piper, who was adjudged off-side.

Gary Holloway then came on for skipper Steve Watson, who made an impressive return to first team action after his recent absence from injury and suspension, and there appeared little danger of Boro being over-run in the middle of the park.

Allen then appeared to kick out at Daren Annon - who was filling in at left-back for the suspended Justin Gregory - and received only a yellow card when a red seemed the more appropriate action. The heated moment seemed to give Northwich reason to go for the gear-stick once again and just minutes later, they were level.

Substitute Jake Sedgmore broke down the right-hand side and his delivery was sweetly met by Blundell's header - which, to put it mildly, was simply too much for Pennock to handle in the Boro goal.

Two-two very nearly became 2-3 a minute later when Kevin Street hit the post after good work by Allen, again down the right-hand side where Annon had been left exposed, and it was at this point that Boro were struggling to hang on in the 12th round.

Yet football certainly is a funny old game and it was left to Baptiste to wrap things up for Boro late on after being put through by Holloway, much to the dismay of the visitors.

"It's a good three points and I think the result should have been more convincing than it was. It is never easy against ten men, people up their work rate and feel like they have a point to prove. I think their lads worked very hard in the second half and made it very difficult for us.

"Over the 90 minutes we created a lot of chances and I think we would liked to have taken more of them but it's a decent afternoon's work and a good three points."

When asked about morale in the dressing room, the delighted manager said: "They're smiling down there. They have been smiling for a while. Three points, we've got the cup to look forward to, 200th league game next weekend. Exciting times and there is a lot of enthusiasm in the dressing room and it's nice to work with."

BORO: Pennock 7; Warner 8, Bunce 7, Laker 7, Watson 7 (Holloway 7), L Piper 8, C Piper 7 (Taggart 71 6), Carroll 8 (Green 6), Charlery 7, Baptiste 8, Annon 7. Not used: Osborn, Butterworth.

Att:641: Ref: Roger East.

l Boro reserves are action on Wednesday night at the Aimita Stadium in their Capital League clash with Woking, kick-off is 7.45pm.

l Farnborough Town chiefs have had a black leather wallet handed in following Saturday's game.

The wallet has no name, just a black and white picture of a teenage boy contained. If it's yours, please contact the club on (01252) 541469.