Old Belvedere pulled off the great escape at Anglesea Road on Saturday as an 18-point haul from rising star Josh Glynn gave them a memorable victory over Belfast Harlequins.
This was an absorbing Ulster Bank League Division 1A promotion/relegation play-off. 'Belvo had finished their divisional campaign in fine style, with a succession of memorable wins ensuring that they finished ahead of Blackrock at the foot of the table.
However, Harlequins fully merited their place in this tie. Indeed, they moved into an early lead when out-half Stuart Olding raced through a number of 'Belvo challenges before touching down underneath the posts.
His half-back partner Ian Porter, who has featured for Brian McLaughlin's Ulster team on a number of occasions, was on hand to slot over the subsequent conversion to give the Belfast men a dream start.
But last year's Division 1 champions soon settled down thanks to a penalty from Josh Glynn 11 minutes in. The young winger added to his tally with a well-taken try in the right corner just three minutes later, via excellent approach play by number 8 Jack Conan and the experienced Daniel Riordan.
After a rather shaky beginning, Old Belvedere were now starting to gain a stranglehold on the game, as an expertly-struck conversion by Glynn gave them a three-point advantage (10-7) with 15 minutes gone on the clock.
Their advantage was cancelled out though by a successful Porter penalty after 29 minutes and even though 'Belvo had some good pressure towards the end of the opening period, Harlequins held firm to keep the sides on level terms heading into the second half.
Following an entertaining first period, the action upon the resumption was far scrappier fare, though the hosts were the ones doing the majority of the pressing.
With so much at stake, every score was going to be vital and Andy Dunne's men restored their advantage on the hour mark thanks to a second penalty from the accurate Glynn.
Porter had a chance to wipe out 'Belvo's cushion with a penalty five minutes later, but he came up short with his kick from a right angle, a missed opportunity that he was left rue.
Crucially, Glynn got in for his second five-pointer in the 67th minute after Riordan’s kick from distance had bounced kindly in his direction.
This unconverted score looked like being enough to secure 'Belvo’s top flight status, but a 77th minute Harlequins try from Ulster prop Adam Macklin threw a spanner into the works.
Porter’s narrow conversion miss meant that the possibility of extra-time loomed large in the final moments, but Old Belvedere held on much to the relief of their loyal band of supporters.
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)