RYAN Clarke proved the missing piece of the puzzle as Maitland kept their season alive and postponed Edgeworth's premiership celebrations with a deja vu 2-1 win at Cooks Square Park.
The Eagles were chasing a win to seal a record 13th top-division premiership on Saturday and led 1-0 until Braedyn Crowley scored in the 90th and 95th minutes to give the Magpies an unlikely victory in round 12 of the Northern NSW NPL.
It lifted the defending premiers from outside the top five to third on 19 points with one game to play against Valentine away next week. A loss on Saturday would have all but ended their play-off hopes.
Clarke, in his fourth game and second start since returning to the club, was the hero, earning the penalty for the equaliser and providing the pinpoint cross for the winner.
Maitland coach Mick Bolch said the return of Clarke had helped give his side the depth to finish games strongly, which was a key to their success last year.
The match on Saturday was almost identical to their clash at the ground last year when Clarke scored in stoppage-time after Sean Pratt levelled for Maitland in the 89th minute in a 2-1 victory.
"It was [the same] bar Clarkey getting the winner, but he still had a lot to do with it this year," Bolch said.
"He's done very well for us since he's come back the last four weeks. He gives us that different dimension and X-factor in the final third. You just can't coach pace and he's got it to burn.
"And I think he's really enjoying his football. Not doing anything for six months and resting his body up, he's really come back as fresh as a daisy.
"He carried a lot of niggles at the end of last year, and the boys are buzzing to have him around again."
Edgeworth, still five points clear at the top on 30, led with a strike from player-coach Josh Rose in the 11th minute. They have the bye next round and will secure first spot if Broadmeadow (25) lose to Azzurri in round 13 or the Eagles win the following week against Adamstown.
Rose said the loss was "a good wake-up call".
"I thought first half, especially the first 20-25 minutes, it was probably some of the best football we've played this year," Rose said.
"That was a positive, then it was just a bit of complacency, laziness and lack of effort in the last 10 minutes. Against good teams, you can't do that."
Also Saturday, a Kale Bradbery double helped Lambton Jaffas defeat Lake Macquarie 3-0 at Edden Oval to move to fourth on 18 points, while Valentine (12) conceded a 94th-minute goal to draw 2-2 with Adamstown and farewell their slim finals hopes.
James Lowe scored in stoppage time at Adamstown Oval to take Rosebud to five points, one ahead of Lake Macquarie in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
Ben Hay forced a turnover and scored to put Valentine ahead in the fifth minute but Tallan Martin equalised with a header in the eighth. Kaleb Pearson headed Valentine back into the lead in the 82nd minute.
For the Jaffas, Bradbery scored in the 21st and 89th minutes, while Mitch Oxborrow found the top corner with a free kick in the 78th.