It really was the case of ‘The Great Escape’ for Crusaders on Saturday as they eventually saw off Institute 3-2 at Seaview in the Danske Bank Premiership.
It had all looked so well for the Crues as they took the lead in the fifth minute as Rory Patterson rifled home a shot from the edge of the box.
And for the first 15 minutes Stephen Baxter’s side looked like the team that lifted the Gibson Cup last season - but after that they seemed to take their foot off the gas as Institute played all the football.
Yes the home side dug in to score the winner in the 98th minute - but this was not a performance that will live long in the memory of the Crues faithful.
Crusaders manager Baxter was relieved that his side had won three vital league points.
“I am glad to get the three points because that is what we are here to do. But the manner of the win was not what I would have wanted.
“When we got the second goal we should have shut up shop but they break up the pitch straight after that and they equalise.
“I have to say their play was superb and their passing game was very good.
“They took it off the goalkeeper and passed it about all day. Their play was great and they will be disappointed they didn’t get something from the game and sometimes as a manager you feel sorry for the other team.
“But it has happened to me many times and Paddy will know that and you roll with the punches.
“But credit to our lads. they have shown character to hang in there and never gave in.
“We are pleased with the three points. I was pleased with the start we made and Rory scores a cracking goal but after 15 minutes they started to find their passing game and passed it really well and they have a number of clever players.
“I was impressed with Michael McCrudden, Ronan Doherty and Aaron Harkin.
“They were really good and they played well, but we just sneaked it at the end. There are very thin lines in football and we got the job done,” added Baxter.
And a devastated Institute boss Paddy McLaughlin thought his side deserved something from the encounter.
“We deserved at least a point from the game. We were breaking late in the game and we could have scored one ourselves which would have been harsh on Crusaders. I think a draw would have been a fair result.
“We went toe to toe for the whole game but we have to move forward from this result.”
And the Stute boss was pleased with the way his side responded after falling behind twice in the game.
“To go behind twice to the defending league champions shows character and that is what it is about.
“If you let your head drop against the likes of Crusaders they will run over the top of you.
“We showed great spirit but we are still walking away with a defeat.
“We now face Glenavon next week which will be tough.
“When you are stepping up from the Championship it will always be tough.
“You are facing the top clubs and we are enjoying it and this is where we deserve to be,” he added.