Goals flowed in a an astonishing match at Clarence Park on Saturday as ten-man Barwell wiped out a two-goal deficit to salvage a point from a 4-4 draw and deny St Albans City second spot in the Southern League.
City will rue this wonderful game as two points lost – certainly manager David Howell did as he kept his side locked inside the dressing room for an hour after the game - but few will begrudge the visitors from Leicestershire their reward from 90 minutes football played in the fashion of a cut and thrust cup tie.
Barwell went into the game looking to bounce back from a FA Cup replay defeat at Workington while City were aiming to chalk up a fifth consecutive Premier Division victory.
St Albans were without the ill Curtis Ujah with the muscular defender replaced by Moussa Diarra.
The 22-year-old Parisian may not have been at his best defensively but he managed the distinction of becoming the first Frenchman to score a hat-trick for the club.
Just six minutes had elapsed when Barwell, 6-1 winners at the Park last December, opened the scoring courtesy of a two errors in the City defence.
Jamie Towers broke free down the Canaries right and when his near post cross was missed by Diarra fellow defender Danny Gordon inadvertently diverted the ball past keeper Nick Jupp at the back post.
Already Barwell were playing with an assurance that spelled trouble for their hosts and fired in shots from Luke Barlone and Richard Lavery before Chris Henry had City’s first attempt on goal with a clever effort that dipped onto the roof of the net.
City drew level on 28 minutes with a goal that was against the run of play when Gordon headed a Richard Graham corner into the goalmouth for the gangly Diarra to lash the ball into the York Road net from barely six yards out.
St Albans now turned on the style and Barwell looked to be desperately hanging on as the Saints sprayed the ball around.
Barwell had a fortuitous escape when Sean Shields crossed from the right and a soft headed clearance went straight to Micah Hyde whose powerful shot was blocked by the legs of keeper Liam Castle. And maybe Castle deserved the good fortune that came his way as the rebound bounced wide after thudding into Lewis Toomey.
Castle followed this with another save from Toomey and a full stretch push around the post from Shields on 40 minutes.
But from the ensuing corner on the City left, hit deep by Graham, Diarra stooped to head the Saints in a 2-1 lead.
As City continued to push forward a third goal seemed inevitable but Barwell, a more than useful side going forward, surprisingly drew level three minutes later.
Barlone, on the edge of the penalty area, held the ball up well on his chest before laying it into the path of Scott Hadland whose powerful right-footed shot was knocked down by Jupp but the City keeper could not stop the ball from bouncing into the Hatfield Road goal.
The home side almost regained their lead before the break when Chris Henry crossed low towards the near post and although Toomey beat Castle to the ball could not get his close range effort on target.
Playing down the slop after the interval St Albans quickly regained the upper hand and in being presented with penalties in the 59th and 60th minutes could have moved into a commanding position.
The first spot kick followed a trip on Shields by Jack Edwards with the Barwell defender being sent packing having been cautioned for also fouling Shields just before half time.
Micah Hyde swept the penalty low to the right of the fully extended Castle to give City a 3-2 advantage and 60 seconds later ought to have scored his second when Mark Albrighton was penalised by referee Christopher O’Donnell for a shove on Toomey.
Hyde went for the same spot as before but this time his kick was slightly higher and Castle pulled of a spectacular save before getting up to safely gather Henry’s follow up.
But St Albans were only kept waiting until the 70th minute for their fourth goal and with it, seemingly, the three points.
Graham, on the City right, played a corner short to substitute Hayles before taking a return pass. This time Graham fed Shields who angled shot was turned in at the back post by Diarra who wasted no time in raising three fingers to the jubilant spectators on the Hatfield Road terrace.
The outcome appeared bleak for Barwell but four minutes later Canaries substitute Matt West fired a warning with a shot over Jupp that crashed into the crossbar. Ryan Watts put the ball out for a corner from which West headed across the face of the goal.
Barwell continued to display outstanding resilience and on 78 minutes reduced the arrears when West played the ball into Scott Hadland whose shot was blocked by the legs of Jupp only for Barlone to carefully slide the ball goalwards, with it possibly clipping Diarra on its way into the goal.
As City looked edgy West went close with a header from a Towers cross and then Towers, after exchanging passes with West, nudged the ball wide of the advancing Jupp but from a tight angle could only fire into the side-netting.
As the temperature rose, at least on the pitch as it was dipping fast elsewhere, referee O’Donnell had to calm the visitor’s bench but they were not calmed for long as the Canaries grabbed a sensational equaliser.
Castle moved from his goal to take a free kick inside the City half and launch it into the home goalmouth.
Jupp climbed to collect but under pressure from Barlone fumbled and could only look on as Guy Hadland drove in the eighth and final goal of a glorious game.
Eight goals, two penalties – one scored, one saved – one dismissal, two brothers scoring, a dramatic injury time equaliser and, just for good measure, a rainbow.
Yes, it was quite a day as City and the Canaries did their best on Non-League Day to demonstrate just how entertaining and exciting life can be outside the world of the professional game.
Diarra is the second City central defender in three years to score a hat-trick and not be on the winning side. Ben Martin scored three times when the Saints went down 5-4 to Bromley in January 2009.