Walsden C & FC blew away the cobwebs with a 10-goal haul ahead of two crunch games in the Rochdale Online Alliance.
They enhanced their title claims with Saturday’s 10-3 drubbing of Balderstone on a 3G pitch at Kingsway.
A 5-1 defeat for leaders Woodbank at the hands of White Lion means the chase for honours looks wide open and between four sides.
Dan Howley’s men are due to return to Kingsway to play title rivals Woodbank and then Fothergill and Whittles over the next two weeks.
Those two home games are due to take place on grass and Walsden, in great heart, are hoping that the weather allows the fixtures to take place.
Paul Marrow was in charge against fallen giants Balderstone in what proved a perfect return for the side after a lengthy break.
Sixteen players were available and Marrow gave them all a run, coming on himself for the last 15 minutes to rub salt into Balderstone’s wounds.
Gary Brierley opened the scoring with a shot into the top corner after 15 minutes and Danny Brown made it 2-0.
Balderstone got one back with a penalty after Danny Welsh’s mis-timed tackle, but Brown added two more to give Walsden a 4-1 lead.
Balderstone got their second just before the interval, at which stage Marrow started to ring the changes.
Stevie Barker, Brown and Brierley helped Walsden romp into a 7-2 lead and Jonny Sutcliffe’s effort was then deflected in by a defender.
Marrow scored the ninth with a good effort into the top corner and then went through one-on-one with the ‘keeper before squaring for another sub, James Steven, to score.
Balderstone had the last word but that didn’t detract from a fine afternoon for Walsden, for whom Brown and centre half Josh Gale stood out.
Howley’s side were reaching the mid-point of their 16-game league programme and they have picked up well after losing their opening two games when players were unavailable.
Looking at his side’s title prospects, Marrow said: “We’ve a good chance because we have a good team.
“If we can beat Woodbank we would be only three points behind them with two games in hand. That would put us right in the mix.”
P W D L GD Pts
Woodbank 10 7 1 2 6 22
White Lion 9 5 3 1 21 18
Fothergill & W 7 5 1 1 15 16
Walsden C&FC 8 5 1 2 5 16
Falcon 11 5 0 6 -1 15
Rochdale SH 9 4 2 3 4 14
Sudden 8 3 0 5 -6 9
Rochdale Asia 10 2 0 8 -17 6
Balderstone 8 0 0 8 -27 0