Macclesfield Town's 139-year quest to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup is over. Before a delirious crowd, Matthew Barnes-Homer wrote himself into local folklore by scoring on 85 and 88 minutes to knock out Cardiff City, the Championship leaders who stand 81 places above the Blue Square Premier's 10th-placed side and had seemed set for victory thanks to Nat Jarvis's second-half goal.
Steve King, the Macclesfield manager who has been under pressure from supporters, hailed the side's achievement. "I'm massively proud," he said. "Days like this we have to savour. It's important that coming into the next game people are behind us again. We need everybody pulling in the same direction.
"I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game. We kept our shape and we hardly got overloaded – the only time we did was when they scored."
Of the hero, King added: "I've known Barnesy for a little while. People wrote him off when he came, saying he's not going to score. I've always believed in him. Matthew's an unusual, complex character at times and I know how to handle him. Time and time again he's dug us out from nowhere."
The 19th and 20th strikes of the campaign from Barnes-Homer, a nomadic 26-year-old who made Macclesfield his 15th club when joining from Ostersund of Sweden's second division in the summer, will long be toasted in this part of Cheshire.
He was particularly pleased with the winning spot-kick. "They are the best goals of my life because of the occasion," the forward said. "The penalty because it is the 20th. Halfway through the season, scoring 20 is a great achievement."
Was he nervous as he stood over the penalty? "I was calm. It was deciding whether to go high or low because he [Joe Lewis] is a big keeper. But I decided to go hard and low as I didn't think he could get down."
Just as the reports were being written to praise King's team as plucky losers, Jack Mackreth, a second-half replacement, had his say. The No7's blistering run down the right finished with him turning on to his left foot and swinging over a ball to the far post. Barnes-Homer, lurking beyond Lewis, bundled home the equaliser from close range.
If this had the home congregation starting to party, the best was about to come. Macclesfield again pressed forward – as they did throughout – and when Pablo Mills went down in the area Andrew Madley, the referee, pointed to the spot. Cardiff were furious but Barnes-Homer kept his cool to smash in a famous winner.
At half-time Macclesfield had wandered off having bested the Championship leaders despite the 0-0 scoreline. They had adhered to the stereotype of the lower league outfit who present a quicker and hungrier challenge than more established cousins from higher up the pyramid.
Cardiff were fortunate not to go behind after 35 minutes when Charlie Henry fluffed the best chance thus far. From a long free-kick a flick-on fell to Henry but the right-winger snatched at the ball.
Throughout, the Silkmen found a way to turn Cardiff, whether from the flanks or down the middle. On one occasion, the visitors' left was breached when Barnes-Homer played in his strike partner, Amari Morgan-Smith, before a relieved Cardiff scrambled the ball away.
On the opposing flank John Paul Kissock, aka the non-League Lionel Messi due to his similar stature and penchant for a dribble, was a continual problem Cardiff could not deal with: his ability to beat a player and cut inside created an early chance for Keiran Murtagh with a simple lay-off, though the latter's shot failed to trouble Lewis.
Malky Mackay, the Cardiff manager, had rested all of the XI who won at Birmingham City on New Year's Day yet he could still field two men who had tasted Wembley on FA Cup final day. Stephen McPhail, the captain from the 2008 showpiece that was lost 1-0 to Portsmouth, again led Cardiff from central midfield, while Kevin McNaughton was also in his familiar right-back role. But missing from Mackay's side, who began with four teenagers and ended with seven, was the totemic figure of Craig Bellamy. Cardiff, despite Jarvis giving them a 57th-minute lead, missed him.