Market Rasen and Louth almost pulled off a miraculous turnaround, but were architects of their own downfall against Huntingdon.
The visitors went ahead in the second minute through Dan Mailman’s penalty against a sluggish Rasen side.
Huntingdon maintained their momentum three minutes later when they stole a Rasen lineout and peeled off with prop Matt Davies-Binge powering over.
The hosts were spurred into action and after several phases the Red and Greens were held up over their opponents’ line. A strong five-metre scrum saw the ball taken blind where skipper Chris Starling forced his way across the whitewash.
Hooker Tom Alldridge’s well-struck conversion reduced the deficit to a point and settled the nerves.
And when Huntingdon spilled the ball, Rasen centre Rob Batterbury made a superb break, taking play deep into the visitors’ territory.
After more pressure, Huntingdon conceded a penalty and Alldridge kicked Rasen into the lead.
Huntingdon responded almost immediately when Wayne Bradley’s marauding charge went unhindered and centre Duncan Low had the simple task of dotting down under the posts. Mailman added an easy conversion.
In a topsy-turvy half, Rasen pushed Huntingdon deep into their own territory with impressive driving play, and the Stags again presented Alldridge with another penalty shot at goal, which he sent sailing through the posts.
Another spilled pass was hacked upfield by Adam Goodwin whose pace took him clear, but the ball bounced into touch agonisingly short of the try line. This cruel bounce was followed by dire defending when full-back Billy Bates strolled through a bemused Red and Green defence to give Huntingdon a 20-13 half-time lead.
The visitors started the second half with a bang as Batterbury’s attempted clearance kick was charged down. The Stags’ forwards rumbled the ball on before a sublime back-handed pass was popped inside for substitute James Thorp to stroll over.
Three minutes later Thorp charged over to score again after Huntingdon had pulled Rasen from one side of the field to the other with excellent handling.
Mailman added both conversions and a disastrous 10-minute spell either side of half-time left Rasen with a mountain to climb.
But the hosts set about their task in a calm, determined manner. From a penalty lineout, Rasen took possession with their trusted catch and drive routine to propel number eight Ben Chamberlin over the line.
Lock Will Thornes fielded the restart and charged up the touchline, but support was slow to arrive and the move petered out.
Rasen had the bit between their teeth and Batterbury atoned for his earlier error and showed the Stags’ defence a clean pair of heels to sprint in for another try.
Chamberlin reprised his first score with another perfect catch and drive, and Alldridge’s successful conversion reduced the deficit to four with 13 minutes left.
Rasen had been the dominant force for much of the second half, but the visitors still had something left and broke Rasen hearts.
Winger Connor Withers’ long run was halted by full-back Peter Everton’s last-ditch tackle, but the ball was popped back inside for Bates to score in the corner.
The drama continued as the visitors were reduced to 14 men. Rasen drilled the ball into touch and the catch and drive again paid dividends as prop David Haig was driven over to leave a four-point deficit with two minutes on the clock.
But time ran out, leaving Huntingdon to claim their first-ever win on Rasen soil.
Rasen: Haig, Alldridge, Southwell (Brown), Mills, Thornes (Inman), C. Starling, Pryer, Chamberlin, C. Everton, Wise, Cooper, Beasley, Batterbury, Goodwin, P. Everton. Sub not used: M. Starling.
* The home run continues on Saturday when Ilkeston visit Willingham Road (kick-off 2.15pm).