The two teams boasting perfect records in the early stages of the Lotto Northern League First Division went head-to-head at Seddon Fields on April 18, but pacesetters North Shore United found themselves on the wrong end of a 6-1 hiding from a rampant Western Springs side.
"The Hoops" now top the table on goal difference from Shore, with a game in hand to boot, and on the evidence of this display alone, their stay in Division One looks certain to be a decidedly brief one.
The match started off at a frantic pace, with both teams striving to gain the upper hand. It was Shore who blinked first, however, when Alex Ferguson - no, not the knighted nutter! - headed a Maurie Wasi cross past his own post in the tenth minute.
Andrew Blake fired in the resulting corner, which Wasi rose to meet, only to see his header tipped onto the bar by James Dunn. What goes up must come down, of course, and Adam Dickinson gleefully headed home the rebound from close range.
Shore were still coming to terms with that setback when they conceded a second goal six minutes later. Wasi linked with Blake, who took the ball on before unleashing a low angled twenty-yarder which Dunn tipped round the post for another corner.
Blake delivered this one to the far post, where Brian Shelley soared above all-comers to head home powerfully from close range - 2-0 to "The Hoops", with just seventeen minutes on the clock.
Shore came back strongly, with Seb Vanneste and Ross Langworthy combining to close down Ian Sellar five minutes later. Langworthy, Shore's leading marksman so far this season, secured possession and set up Ash Ngadela, who sent a rising drive flashing over the bar.
The visitors were then harshly denied a penalty in the 27th minute. Langworthy's driving run into the penalty area came to an abrupt end under Sellar's challenge from behind, but referee Chris Trent ruled that no foul had been committed - play on!
Shore's disbelief swiftly turned to despair, as Springs stung them on the counter-attack to go 3-0 up. The ball was switched to Blake on the left, just on half-way, and he controlled it well before lifting the ball over one opponent, then taking on two more in more conventional fashion.
At this point, he switched play to the opposite side of the park, where Dickinson was lurking in the gloom. The early goal had put the Scouser well in the mood, and he duly struck a quite unstoppable rising twenty yard drive between the diving figure of Dunn and his near post, right in the top corner.
The ball crashed into the net with force aplenty before stopping dead as it rebounded to the ground, leaving those watching from the sideline with the impression that it had hit the side-netting - it took up to five seconds for them to realise that 'Dicko' had put Springs on easy street with over an hour's action still to be played.
Added to the injustice Shore felt following the penalty incident, it meant that the men in maroon were spitting fire from the moment play resumed, and in the 34th minute, they became the first team to breach Springs' rearguard this season.
A defensive blunder was the source of the goal, with Ngadela the recipient of the loose ball. He promptly played the ball across to Dave Fahy, who battered one home from twelve yards - game on!
Within two minutes, the visitors came within inches of bagging a second goal. Souleymane Cissoko won the ball well in midfield before linking with Vanneste, who invited Langworthy to drive in a cross. His delivery picked out the head of Ngadela, who executed a looping header which arced over Springs' custodian, Elliot Munford, and - by a narrow margin - the crossbar.
Unperturbed, Shore pressed again, and two minutes before half-time had another decent penalty claim snubbed by referee Trent. An awful attempted clearance by Scott Sellar - a rare blemish in an otherwise impressive personal display - presented Ngadela with a shooting chance, but Shelley's superbly timed tackle thwarted the striker in the act of pulling the trigger.
The ball ricocheted in the direction of Fahy, who managed to pull the trigger just as Sellar, eager to make amends for his initial error, promptly executed another, in the form of an ill-timed tackle.
Fahy's shot flew past the post, but the visitors were more concerned with appealing for another penalty from referee Trent. Once more, he shunned their claims, much to the disbelief of coach Tom Speers, who discussed the contentions incidents with the
match officials as they made their way off the pitch at half-time.
Shore certainly had a few rough calls go against them, with more materialising in the second spell. But even had a few of those contentious decisions gone in favour of the visiting side, the final outcome would likely have been little different.
There was a real zip and zest about Springs' performance, so much so that Shore's play looked laboured and one-dimensional by comparison. Three minutes into the second spell, Dickinson was denied his hat-trick by Dunn's parried save, while four minutes later, George Debenham rattled the side-netting from close range following Wasi's fine work on the right.
Another Springs goal appeared inevitable, and it duly materialised in the 56th minute. Wasi played the ball into Dickinson, who had a lot of work to do, but did it superbly. He out-muscled one opponent before, from twenty yards, thrashing a twenty yard grasscutter between two defenders and beyond the diving figure of Dunn into the bottom far corner of the net - a real striker's goal, which completed his hat-trick.
"The Hoops" were far from done with this one, however - this was 'dip your bread' time, and with twenty minutes still to play, they went nap in unerring fashion, Liam Mulrooney rolling back the years with a trademark twenty-five yard piledriver which stormed into the same corner of the net Dickinson had struck, after he had combined with Chris Bale to engineer the opening, following Blake's corner to the far post.
5-1 became 6-1 six minutes later, and if anyone needed further proof that Dickinson was well and truly in the mood … Debenham was in a tussle for possession on the left when the hat-trick scorer appeared on the scene, took the ball off his team-mate and accelerated away down the left.
Dickinson then cut inside before, from twenty-five yards, executing another unerring strike on the run which arrowed into the opposite bottom corner of the net to that in which he had planted the ball to complete his hat-trick.
His four-goal haul featured three strikes straight out of the striker's coaching manual, any decent one of which will encourage those charged with finding the net to "aim for the 'postage stamps'", the corners of the net being the areas of the goal 'keepers are least likely to reach.
Dunn can certainly testify that Dickinson has been following those instructions to the letter!
Shore's ambition now was to grab a consolation goal, while endeavouring to thwart Springs in their pursuit of a seventh goal. Either side of Dickinson's fourth goal of the game, Langworthy went close with a twenty-yarder, while Munford saved at the feet of Ngadela.
Back came Springs, Jono Quinn steaming up on the inside of Debenham, who duly provided a pass which allowed the flying fullback to fire in a cross which careered across the bows of the incoming figure of Dickinson in the 79th minute.
Eight minutes later, Quinn produced a superb tackle to dispossess Langworthy, only to gift the ball to substitute Joey Omotani seconds later. The newcomer promptly returned the ball to Langworthy, who picked out Ngadela with a cross which the striker flicked over the bar.
Dickinson and substitute Drew Farnsworth both went close before the final whistle for Springs, either side of Bale turning the ball home, only to be denied by the offside flag - a shame, because it would have capped off a superb move in fitting fashion.
It meant the home team had to settle for a 6-1 victory over Shore, a result which few among the good-sized Tuesday night crowd - at least 200 were in attendance - would have predicted before the kick-off.
Barring disasters, they've surely witnessed one of the teams who'll be occupying the promotion spots at season's end. "The Hoops", on this display, look to be a cut above their First Division rivals, and a swift return to the top flight should be the minimum expectation for Neil Emblen and his squad in 2017.
Springs: Munford; I. Sellar (booked, 73) (J. Debenham, 76), Shelley, Bale, Quinn; Blake, Schnell (Mulrooney, 60), S. Sellar (Farnsworth, 71); Wasi, Dickinson, G. Debenham
Shore: Dunn; Ferguson, Canton, Luiten, Lissington; Cissoko (Omotani, 63), Campbell (booked, 50) (So, 63), Vanneste (Kadiya, 77); Ngadela, Fahy, Langworthy
Referee: Chris Trent