NOT FOR the first time this season, Ashcombe Park somehow found a way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
They let Stafford off the hook after looking like they were going to return home with a much-needed win to their name – only to eventually lose by just nine runs.
This was despite the efforts of former Ashcombe professional Ross Salmon, now back with the club following his departure in 1998.
The match had begun in tremendous fashion for the visitors as Rizwan Haider claimed four early wickets, at one stage having returned 4-16, before eventually finishing with 4-33.
He was backed by season-best spells from Jake Johnson (2-29) and Nathan Ball (1-13).
Stafford slumped to 51-7 with Salmon having soon making his presence felt, holding a slip catch off Haider for Stafford's second wicket.
The soft, slow pitch and even slower outfield was no friend to any batsman but Mark Foster, in at the fall of the seventh, played a quiet but vital innings for the home side, scoring just 10 off 65 balls. While Foster held firm at one end, Aparajit Singh Khurana began to accumulate runs at the other.
Ashcombe's foot came off the pedal as the pair slowly turned the tables, adding 49 for the eighth wicket, almost doubling the total before Josh Johnson had Singh caught by Grant Roberts at slip after a priceless 42 at 100-8.
Johnson claimed the final two wickets, including that of Foster, caught by Dave Proffitt, to finish with 3-15.
Every run became worth ten for the home side and even the last-wicket partnership of 14, between Oliver Stark and Ian Young, turned out to be crucial in the end as Stafford were eventually dismissed for 123.
Ashcombe's reply started badly, with the loss of both openers, Ryan Ball and Tom Boulton, with only 13 runs on the board.
Haider (31) and Proffitt (18) raised hopes with a partnership of 47 for the third wicket. But disastrously for Ashcombe, both were out almost together.
Haider, much to his displeasure, was adjudged lbw to Singh and Proffitt played on, off his pad, to the same bowler one run later at 61-4.
Left-arm spinner Singh bowled throughout from the scorebox end, his variations of pace causing all the Ashcombe batsmen trouble and ending with 6-30 off 23 overs.
Salmon, in at 60-3, batted throughout the remainder of the innings to top-score for Ashcombe, with 32 not out.
Having been out of cricket for a while, Salmon was clearly ring rusty, but two crisp cover drives, a cracking square cut and a deft sweep to the fine-leg boundary gave a glimpse of the past and hint of what might come.
Unfortunately, Salmon couldn't find a partner with the same patience and application to stay with him long enough to make a difference.
Grant Roberts joined Salmon, with the pair adding 19 for the ninth wicket with the target getting ever closer, but Roberts was bowled by Singh at 113-9, with last man Jake Johnson following next over and one run later
Backing Singh from the other end, Stafford skipper Dave Foster claimed 1-17, Greg Massingham 1-16 and Stark topped and tailed the innings with the first and last wicket, to end with 2 -41.