On rare occasions in football everything just clicks into place, fate comes into play and when it does something magical is played out in front of those in attendance.
On Tuesday night at Sincil Bank, fate seemed to dictate that an unlikely FA Cup upset simply had to occur.
In 1975/76 future England manager Graham Taylor, still in his managerial infancy, led Lincoln City to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
A 3-2 defeat at West Bromwich Albion ended their interest in the competition but it had been some run to the last thirty two.
In the forty years that followed a succession of Imps managers tried and failed to reach the Fourth Round once again.
The likes of Colin Murphy, John Beck and Chris Sutton all tried and failed to match Taylor’s achievement.
So how fitting in the week when the world of football mourned Taylor’s passing, the club finally reached the Fourth Round once again.
A dramatic last-gasp victory against SkyBet Championship side Ipswich Town coincided with the club’s supporters paying their own emotional tributes to the man that went on to manager Watford, Aston Villa and England after leaving Sincil Bank.
A minute’s applause shook the Imps home to its foundations, a red and white card display was put together.
And four big banners were held aloft for the capacity crowd to see.
One showed Taylor’s smiling face, another simply said “Graham Taylor 1944 – 2017”, the next displayed an emotive slogan of “As one passes another rises”.
One of the subjects of that sentence was shown on the fourth and final banner and he is the man that has now matched Taylor’s feat of taking the club to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
Danny Cowley, along with brother Nicky, watched as his side controlled and manoeuvred their higher-ranked opponents around the pitch.
A winner seemed inevitable, almost as if fate was to dictate that they should win.
And win they did, albeit after a long wait.
As the clock ticked into injury time Nathan Arnold applied the final touch to a lightening quick break as he rounded Ipswich Town keeper Dean Gerken and rolled the ball into an empty net.
Sincil Bank, on a night where there was simply no need for added emotion, erupted into a cacophony of jubilation.
The scenes in the stands were matched on the touchline.
Cowley was surrounded by players and coaches. His guard has slipped, but not for long.
The former Braintree Town manager quickly checked himself and demanded that his players calmed down.
They did exactly that and saw out the remaining three minutes of injury time to set up a Fourth Round clash against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Taylor would have loved the scenes at the end, with that familiar smile no doubt on display.
Cowley was moved by the support he had received, although brushed off suggestion that he had matched anything Taylor had achieved.
He said “It was special and it meant a lot to me and to my brother Nicky.
“Graham Taylor was a fantastic man and what he achieved here at Lincoln City, at Watford and Aston Villa was very special. Almost unprecedented.
“We both watched a lot of documentaries and videos about him because we knew we would be asked questions after last week.
“We didn’t need it, but it was a reminder of what a great football man he was.
“We were appreciative of the gesture from our supporters, but we have a long way to go until we match what Graham achieved”
In a season that seems to get better and better for Lincoln City, their win over Mick McCarthy’s side marks another notable landmark.
Still in the FA Trophy, sat top of the National League and now into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, Cowley, along with his brother Nicky, has overseen a rejuvenation in fortunes for the club’s supporters.
The reward came on Tuesday night, as supporters flowed back into the city’s bars they knew they had witnesses something special.
Their side had made a mockery of a three division gap between the two sides.
“A fantastic night” Cowley called it, albeit one that came with a warning.
He continued “I was proud of everyone at the club”
“The players, the coaches, the directors and, of course, the supporters.
“We have shown what this club was about and we have shown what a wonderful club we are.
“But now we need to focus. The celebrations are for the supporters.
“As a management team, as a squad of players, the celebrations are done with now. We have a big league game coming up and our focus is solely on that.
“Yes, Brighton is a great game for us and they have a top manager in Chris Hughton.
“It’s great to take him on and for our players to test themselves against their squad. But for now we focus on our next league game, and that is all”.
Focused and determined, Cowley has clearly moved on from his side securing their place in the club’s history books.
But one more question on the night is allowed.
Were there nerves or doubts as his side broke away in the ninetieth minute?
“It was a great counter attack” he said.
“It was high-energy that we love seeing in our players and I wouldn’t want any other players except Nathan Arnold and Adam Marriott conducting that counter attack.
“I asked Adam after the game what he was thinking and he said he knew he wouldn’t outpace their player, so he pirouetted in a way only Adam Marriott can and his pass for Nathan was perfectly directed and weighted.
“Nathan was in a position he had been in at the same time for Grimsby in their play-off final win over Forest Green last season.
“He had that experience, he knew what to do. I never had doubts; it was great to see it go in”
A final word on Taylor.
In a week where many of his quotes have been shared in the public domain, one should strike a chord with football supporters around the country.
“The sound of hitting a football thrills me. I am very fortunate I am a manager and I would like to remain one, simply so I can still hear a ball being struck”
And Taylor would have been thrilled to hear Arnold striking the ball into the back of the net to send Cowley’s Imps into the history books, just as he had done with his own Lincoln City side just over forty years ago.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Reuters Media (Action Images)