The Hatters showed character and quality to twice come from behind to seal a dramatic 3-2 victory over Lincoln at Kenilworth Road.
Trailing twice to the Imps, John Still’s side were 2-1 behind with 13 minutes to go before their grandstand finish.
The Imps held a half-time lead through Alan Power’s 20th-minute strike but the Hatters, who had ended the first half on top, flew out of the traps in the second half and striker Mark Cullen headed an equaliser just 43 seconds after the restart.
But just when it looked as though the Town would take the game to the Imps, the high-flying visitors re-took the lead on 51 minutes through Ben Tomlinson’s close range header.
However, with the game within the Imps’ grasp the Hatters won it. Firstly a howler from Lincoln goalkeeper Paul Farman enabled Luke Guttridge’s low free-kick squirm through the keeper’s legs for the equaliser on 77 minutes. Then, three minutes later, Cullen scored his second: lashing home from six yards to spark Kenilworth Road into celebration.
The game’s ending seemed a million miles away in a first half dominated by the visitors. Strong and confident, the Imps enjoyed large periods of possession against a Town side missing Paul Benson through an ankle injury.
Cullen’s appearance in attack was the one change to the Hatters side from Tuesday’s win over Dartford and the striker had the first real chance of the game on nine minutes when his tame short was saved by Farman.
Half-chances fell the Town’s way in the opening exchanges but it was Lincoln who took the lead on 20 minutes. The Hatters failed to deal with a long throw and after the ball was half-cleared it fell at the feet of Power who sent a low finish beyond the unsighted Mark Tyler.
Lincoln sensed a second, and three minute later Tyler dealt with a shot from Tomlinson after the frontman has escaped the attentions of Andy Parry to burst upfield.
However, the Hatters ended the first half on top. Guttridge, influential as always, curled a shot goalwards that was plucked out of the air by Farman on 31 minutes and the midfielder came even closer to finding an equaliser four minutes before half-time with a curling effort that whistled inches wide of the post with Farman beaten.
But it didn’t take the Town long to get back on level terms after half-time. Guttridge was the architect, swinging in a fine ball from the left into Cullen’s path and from eight yards the former Hull striker sent a fine header arching past Farman.
With the home crowd now sensing a victory, the Imps had other ideas and re-took the lead much to Still’s frustration. Yet another long throw from the right worked its way into the six-yard box and Tomlinson was on hand to nod the ball past Tyler despite the goalkeeper’s best efforts to keep the ball out.
It could have been curtains for the Town three minutes later. Lincoln attacked with menace on the break and right-back Tom Miller swept a well-hit effort just past the post much to the relief of the Hatters defence. It would go onto be a costly miss.
With the Hatters running out of ideas, Still sent on Andre Gray and JJ O’Donnell for Jim Stevenson and Scott Griffiths and the duo’s introduction had the desired effect.
Gray almost linked up with Cullen on 74 minutes whilst Alex Lawless had a penalty appeal waved away after he went down in the box as the Town pressed for a leveller.
It seemed the Town needed a little bit of luck and on 77 minutes they did. Guttridge’s low free-kick from 30 yards arrowed through the Lincoln wall and sneaked between the legs of Farman for the equaliser and the midfielder’s fourth goal of the season.
Now the Hatters sensed blood. Cullen was denied a goal after a good stop from Farman following Gray’s pass but, from the resultant corner, the Town took the lead for the first time. O’Donnell’s right-wing flag-kick found Steve McNulty at the back post. His header was helped on by Ronnie Henry and Cullen was onto it, turning expertly before firing a shot high into the roof of the net.
It was an unbelievable turnaround, and despite some strong Lincoln pressure for a late leveller the Town held firm to celebrate a fine victory.