Saturday's local football round-up
All the final-day drama a football supporter could ask for was on show at Julius Martin Lane this afternoon as Soham Town Rangers preserved their Ryman League Division One North status during a seven-goal thriller against Maldon & Tiptree.
At half-time The Greens, who only needed to match third-from-bottom Heybridge Swifts' result against Phoenix Sports to secure themselves a Step Four spot next term, looked to be heading for straightforward survival. Sam Mulready's goal sent them into the break level at 1-1, while Heybridge found themselves two goals behind.
However, there was nothing routine about the second 45 minutes as the Soham faithful were put through a rollercoaster of emotions.
Kieran Bailey put Maldon 2-1 in front in the 56th minute, but the hosts responded just 120 seconds later through player-assistant manager Lloyd Groves' back-post header.
Maldon were back in front 10 minutes later and while all of this was unfolding, Heybridge had responded with a trio of unanswered goals against Phoenix, dropping Soham into the bottom three in the process.
Ware, who were trailing 2-0 to VCD Athletic, were all of a sudden the team to catch - a Soham equaliser would see Robbie Mason's team survive on goal difference at the expense of the Hertfordshire outfit.
The all-important goal did not appear to be forthcoming until five minutes from time when Mulready's half-volley was too powerful for Maldon goalkeeper Daniel Wilks, but Soham were not done just yet.
To rubber-stamp their safety, centre-back Groves rose highest moments later to power in Adie Cambridge's corner, thus sending the home crowd into raptures.
It means that Soham, who took 17 points from the last 21 available, finished 19th and survived by a two-point margin. Ware - one of three teams on 51 points along with Heybridge and Waltham Abbey - were the team that ended up being relegated.
Elsewhere in that division, 11th-placed Bury Town ended their season in far less eventful circumstances as they eased to a 4-1 win at basement dwellers Great Wakering Rovers.
Josh Mayhew and Luke Read helped themselves to braces for Ben Chenery's charges.
In the Ryman League Premier Division, Needham Market's slim play-off hopes were extinguished by a 2-1 defeat at home to big-spending Billericay Town.
John Sands was on target for The Marketmen, who finish the campaign in ninth - three points adrift of the top-five positions they had occupied for much of the season.
As for relegated Sudbury, they head back to Division One North after a 2-2 draw at Canvey Island with goals from Liam Wales and Dylan Williams.
In the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, Long Melford ceased their relegation fears by recording a 2-0 home win over Swaffham Town.
Those three points have moved The Villagers seven clear of third-from-bottom Wivenhoe Town, with the Essex side having just two matches left to play.
Hadleigh United also edged closer to survival on Friday night with a 2-1 victory at Ipswich Wanderers.
Stuart Alston's team will be guaranteed a place in next season's Premier Division if Wivenhoe fail to beat Haverhill Rovers, who drew 2-2 with Gorleston today, on Wednesday (7.45pm).
Up the other end of the table, champions Mildenhall Town showed no sign of their celebration hangovers with a 2-0 win at Stanway Rovers courtesy of goals from captain Luke Butcher and Dan Brown.
Third-placed Newmarket Town were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Kirkley & Pakefield with defender Charlie Bowen on target for The Jockeys, while Ely City and Walsham-le-Willows were both beaten at home by Felixstowe & Walton United (3-1) and Brantham Athletic (3-0) respectively.
In the First Division, Stowmarket Town's hopes of winning the league will go down to the final day after they played out a 1-1 draw at March Town United, where George Bugg netted for the visitors.
A point at home to AFC Sudbury Reserves next Saturday (3pm) will be enough for Stow to get their hands on the silverware ahead of Haverhill Borough - 1-1 drawers with Whitton United today - and Coggeshall Town.
There was some high-scoring matches elsewhere in the division as Needham Market Reserves were hammered 9-0 at Coggeshall, with AFC Sudbury's second string and Diss Town playing out a 4-4 draw.
Framlingham Town were 5-1 winners over Dereham Town Reserves to move up to seventh, Halstead Town beat Leiston Reserves by the same scoreline and Cornard United share four goals evenly with King's Lynn Town Reserves.
Debenham LC reached the 50-point mark with a 1-0 victory at Wisbech St Mary, while Team Bury were beaten 3-0 at home by Holland FC.
* For reaction and previews to next weekend's matches, see this week's print editions.