Atherton Collieries have reached the final of the Lancashire Challenge Trophy for the first time in the club’s history with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Bamber Bridge.
A brace from Bailey Thompson saw Brad Cooke’s side overcome last season’s semi-final heartbreak, fighting back from behind to defeat a Bridge side reduced to ten-men.
Aaron Skinner’s well-taken strike gave Bamber Bridge an early lead before Mackenzie Chapman denied Fin Sinclair Smith from the spot, with Macauley Wilson shown a straight red in the aftermath.
A mix-up at the back allowed Bailey Thompson to level before half time and the striker made it a brace with minutes remaining to send Colls through to the final at the third time of asking.
Brad Cooke's side started the game brightly and saw a handful of early half-chances, Marcus Cusani and Bailey Thompson going closest with efforts both narrowly over the bar.
The breakthrough for Bridge came on the quarter of an hour mark, some tidy passing exchanges on the edge of the area culminating with Aaron Skinner's well-placed strike into the bottom corner.
Jamie Milligan's side had the chance to double their lead when Jack Lenehan handled in the area, but Fin Sinclair's spot-kick was turned onto the post by Mackenzie Chapman and scrambled clear by Colls.
The immediate aftermath saw the tie flipped on it's head as Macauley Wilson's rash challenge on Marcus Cusani earned him a straight red in a remarkable 30 seconds of drama.
With a man advantage, Colls restored parity before the half time whistle, Bailey Thompson pouncing on a defensive mix-up and rifling the ball into the roof of an empty net before the break.
Colls' spell of dominance continued after the interval, Jay Fitzmartin and Ben Hardcastle seeing strikes from distance denied by in-form Joe Goddard, who produced a stunning save to deny Gaz Peet on the hour.
Bridge grew into the game as the half wore on and threatened despite the man-disadvantage, subsitute Danny Forbes's close-range header forcing Mackenzie Chapman into a solid save.
With the game looking destined for penalties, Bailey Thompson would eventually net the all-important goal, bundling Marcus Cusani's pinpoint cross over the line with just minutes left on the clock.
A nervy conclusion saw Mackenzie Chapman once again prove his stern credentials, producing a fingertip save to deny Finlay Cross-Adair deep into stoppage time.
In the end it was Colls day, with the final whistle sparking jubilant scenes as the Stripes reached the trophy's final for the first time in their history. The winner of Southport or Ashton Athletic will await them.
Colls: Mackenzie Chapman, Clive Smith, Gaz Peet, Ollie Brown, Danny Lafferty (C), Joel Amado, Ben Hardcastle (Adam Haw 68'), Jack Lenehan (Arran Pettifer 73'), Bailey Thompson, Jay Fitzmartin (Cesaire Lingouba 90'), Marcus Cusani
Subs: Luca, Defreitas-Hansen, Adam Rooney
Man of the Match: Bailey Thompson (Sponsored by Colls Supporters Club Chester Branch)
Report: Danny Brown
Photo: Dave Featherstone