Mike Burke netted a stoppage-time screamer as Widnes came back from 5-3 down to beat higher-ranked Nantwich Town 6-5 in an astonishing Integro Cup tie.

Widnes had raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening five minutes through Rhain Hellawell and Anointed Chukwu, and the Whites were in dreamland when George Webster fired them 3-0 up inside half an hour against a side 37 places above them in the Northern Premier League.

Nantwich then stormed back to lead 4-3 at half-time. Joe Davis pulled a goal back after 33 minutes moments before Keenan Quansah put through his own net to reduce Widnes’ lead further.

Valdemar Schousboe equalised on the stroke of half-time which was followed-up almost immediately by Callum Saunders marking his return to Nantwich with his side’s fourth goal of the night, completing a remarkable turnaround before the interval.

There would be plenty more drama.

Former Crewe Alexandra forward Saunders added his second 10 minutes into the second-half, latching on to a Luke Walsh through-ball to lift a cute lob over the on-rushing Owen Wheeler to make it 5-3.

That should have been all she wrote for a Widnes – who are without a win in their previous eight games in all competitions – but to the credit of Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s side, they responded and fought back valiantly.

There was just over 15 minutes to go when right-back Jay Roberts cut inside from the right on to his weaker left-foot and produced a beauty of an effort into the top corner, curling away from the outstretched glove of substitute Nantwich keeper, James Hankins.

Widnes made six changes coming into the contest and top goal-scorer Ben Hodkinson – dropped to the bench ahead of an important run of league fixtures – came within inches of equalising 10 minutes from time when he had a free header crash back against the crossbar.

But Widnes came again as a reeling Nantwich retreated, forcing home an 84th-minute equaliser when Hellawell turned home his second from close-range.

A penalty shootout seemed the most likely outcome for this pulsating cup-tie, but club captain Burke – making his first appearance of the season – had other ideas.

The centre-half unleashed a strike that almost burst the net with virtually the last kick of the game, completing the job late in the day.

Co-bosses Akrigg and Towey would have hoped for a positive performance to galvanize a side low on confidence, but they would have never envisioned a comeback that shows why should never leave early.

What a way to win your first game since mid-September!

Picture by James Smith