The Hatters produced another dramatic late comeback to pick up their first away win of the season in a frantic finale at Wycombe this afternoon, and move back into the Sky Bet League Two play-off places.
The Town trailed 1-0 to an Adebayo Akinfenwa first-half header and had seen a Danny Hylton penalty saved shortly after the interval, when captain Scott Cuthbert – on as a substitute – steered in a 90th-minute equaliser that looked to have preserved the club’s unbeaten record at Adams Park.
It was the second season in a row that the Scotsman had scored at that end - he's only ever scored three times in a Town shirt - and it certainly did maintain the impressive historical record of 13 matches now unbeaten on visits to the Buckinghamshire club.
But eight minutes into time added on, the afternoon got even better for the Hatters as James Collins popped up at the far post to head in a late winner and send the Town unexpectedly up to fourth place in the table by recording back-to-back victories for the first time this term.
Jones went with the same starting XI that had beaten Port Vale in midweek, meaning a second successive start at the heart of defence for the first time this season for Glen Rea, who came in for the suspended Cuthbert on Tuesday.
Cuthbert had to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench, with Alan Sheehan continuing to wear the captain’s armband, and it was the hosts who started on the front foot, and continued to dominate the first half.
Marcus Bean fired high and wide in the early stages before Luke O’Nien drew the first save of the afternoon out of Marek Stech, who dived low to his left to keep out the midfielder’s 20-yard shot after Alan McCormack had headed a long throw clear in the seventh minute.
Five minutes later, Akinfenwa had his first attempt on goal, meeting Joe Jacobson’s left-wing cross with a powerful header that, thankfully for the Town, flew just over the bar.
The Hatters weathered the early storm well, striker Collins helping out in his own six-yard box with a couple of headers and a perfectly timed tackle as Akinfenwa prepared to shoot, and when they got the chance to break, Andrew Shinnie’s pass into the box proved just too strong for Danny Hylton.
The next break brought an appeal for a penalty as Dan Potts switched the ball from left to right, and Jack Stacey was found in oceans of space on the right as it flicked off Jacobson’s head. Collins went down after a challenge from Antony Stewart as he looked to get on the end of the right-back’s cross, but referee James Linington remained unmoved.
Collins soon had the ball in the back of the net, meeting Sheehan’s 24th minute free-kick with a glancing header that beat Scott Brown – but the assistant’s flag ruled him offside and another decision went against the Town.
Collins burst into the left side of the box in the 35th minute and crossed low for Hylton, but Brown and Stewart got there just before the Town striker and managed to clear the danger.
The Town, however, were gaining a footing in the game – until Akinfenwa grabbed the opening goal five minutes before half-time, meeting Michael Harriman’s cross at the far post with another meaty header that this time found the bottom corner of Stech’s net.
Jones was forced into an immediate change, Cuthbert coming on for the injured McCormack and slotting into his usual berth at the heart of defence, with Rea moving into the holding midfield role.
Luke Berry prevented the Chairboys from extending their lead two minutes into time added on at the end of the first half, somehow managing to dig a clearance up and over the bar from inside the six-yard box as Matt Bloomfield looked to get on the end of a back post knock-down by Stewart.
Hylton led a charge deep into Wycombe territory straight after half-time – nutmegging his man on the right edge of the area before trying to cut back for Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, whose attempted shot was smothered before it left his boot.
At the other end Wycombe sub Sam Saunders let fly with a 20-yard drive that Rea managed to head over the bar, before Hylton once again tricked his way past Stewart, this time on the left byline, before standing up a cross for Berry, whose header drifted wide.
Within seconds though, came a glorious chance for the equaliser. Hylton was clearly pushed by Jacobson just inside the penalty area, and this time Linington pointed to the spot.
Unfortunately, Brown guessed the right way and kept Hylton’s penalty out with a strong right hand, leaving his defenders to clear the danger as Hylton looked to get on the rebound.
The Town had started the second half well, however, and Potts was the next to have a go, but his left-foot volley was straight at Brown and when Collins latched onto a ball in the channel down the right, the home keeper gathered well ahead of Hylton at the near post.
Sheehan then had to produce a well-timed tackle in the Town penalty area to prevent former Hatter Craig Mackail-Smith having a clear run on Stech’s goal.
Jones brought Harry Cornick on for Shinnie as he looked to inject more pace into the attack, but we had to wait until the 70th minute for the next effort on goal, Mpanzu striking a beauty with his left foot from 25 yards that Brown had to back-pedal to tip over the bar.
A spell of pressure followed, Cornick powering his way down the right and sending in a dangerous cross that evaded everyone, before Cuthbert sent in a couple of crosses from the left that were well cleared.
Stech had to produce another top drawer save to keep out Luke O’Nien’s half-volley on 79 minutes, with Bean picking up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Hylton as the Town man led a lightning-quick counter attack down the left.
A lengthy hold-up followed as referee Linington made Jacobson leave the pitch after being grounded during a melee, requiring the referee to call the Chairboys’ physio on before Jacobson got up without having treatment.
Wycombe made light work of clearing Sheehan’s free-kick, and Saunders was soon bending a free-kick of their own around the Hatters’ wall, but just wide of Stech’s right post.
Elliot Lee came on for Rea as Jones threw a fourth forward into the fray, but it was Sheehan who found himself free at the far post to meet Berry’s 88th-minute corner, only for his header to be cleared.
We were in the 90th minute when the leveller finally came, Hylton crossing from the left, Lee flicking on at the near post and Cuthbert – who had asked Jones’ permission to move forward as an extra attacker seconds earlier – expertly steering a volley past Brown to the delight of the 1,459 travelling Town fans behind the goal.
Five minutes of injury time had been played when Hatters hearts were in mouths as Wycombe sub Paris Cowan-Hall saw a shot on the turn deflected inches wide of the post, but three minutes later those same hearts were beating with joy.
Seven minutes of added time had been signalled, but we were in the eighth minute when the impressive Cornick crossed to the far post and Collins looked to direct it back towards goal.
The ball looped up off Harriman’s head as the full-back jumped in front of him, and Bean couldn’t prevent it from crossing the line as he made a desperate attempt to keep it out.
The Hatters’ luck had turned – and how!
From the jaws of defeat an unlikely victory was snatched…and everyone has a week to catch their breath before Chesterfield visit Kenilworth Road as Jones’ men have the opportunity to record three successive wins and move into the automatic promotion spots.
TOWN: Stech, Stacey, Rea (E Lee 85), Sheehan, Potts, McCormack (Cuthbert 41), Mpanzu, Berry, Shinnie (Cornick 63), Collins, Hylton. Subs: Justin, Mullins, O Lee, Shea (GK)
Goals: Cuthbert 90, Collins 90+8
Yellows: Shinnie, Collins, Hylton
WYCOMBE: Brown, Harriman, Stewart, El-Abd ©, Jacobson, Bean, O’Nien, Gape (Saunders 34), Bloomfield, Akinfenwa (Tyson 67), Mackail-Smith (Cowan-Hall 90+2). Subs: Richardson (GK), Umerah, Eze, Scarr
Goals: Akinfenwa 40
Yellows: Bean, Akinfenwa
REFEREE: James Linington
ATT: 5,512 (1,459 Hatters)