Teenage striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin bagged a brace as Northampton Town fought back from a goal down to return to winning ways with a 3-2 victory over Carlisle United in a topsy-turvy League Two encounter at Sixfields.
The visitors weathered a strong start from the Cobblers before taking a deserved lead when on-loan teenager Alex Gilliead kept his cool to slot home.
United remained in the ascendency and came close to adding to their lead on several occasions, but two Northampton goals either side of half-time turned the match around.
Calvert-Lewin headed home a corner seconds before the break and that was immediately followed by Sam Hoskins putting the hosts in front with a deflected long-range effort within seconds of the restart.
From that moment on, Northampton seized control and Calvert-Lewin doubled his tally with an excellent finish that sealed a fine comeback victory, despite Charlie Wyke setting up an anxious finale with a stoppage time strike.
After lamenting his side’s overeagerness in their defeat to Cambridge on Saturday, Chris Wilder would have been pleased with the way Northampton worked themselves back into this game and once they hit the front, the Cobblers rarely looked in danger of being pegged back.
The win takes Town up to fifth in Sky Bet League Two and within five points of leaders Plymouth Argyle.
With Calvert-Lewin in for the suspended Lawson D’Ath and Hoskins moving out wide, Wilder opted for a more straightforward 4-4-2 against the Cumbrians, and it was his side who made the brighter start with John-Joe O’Toole having a couple of early long-range efforts blocked.
The Cobblers, perhaps looking to make amends after Saturday’s defeat at Cambridge, were utterly dominant in the opening stages as excellent pressing from the front men saw them pinch possession high up the pitch, resulting in O’Toole again letting fly a vicious effort from distance which sailed inches wide of the right-hand post via a slight deflection.
Carlisle were penned back inside their own half for much of the first 20 minutes as Northampton patiently kept possession, although they were limited to long-range attempts with Calvert-Lewin the next to have a crack, his effort comfortably held by Mark Gillespie.
Wilder would have been satisfied with his side’s start but he was then dealt a blow when Ryan Cresswell was forced off with an injury and had to be replaced by Zander Diamond.
Though Carlisle had seen little of the ball, their threat on the counter-attack was evident throughout the opening half with former Cobbler Derek Asamoah particularly lively up front as he twice turned beyond the home defence but failed to conjure anything on goal from an acute angle.
But Asamoah was then presented with the game’s best chance on 25 minutes. Carlisle worked it well to the left where Danny Grainger sent in a pinpoint low cross to Asamoah but the striker could only side-foot wide from eight yards out with the goal at his mercy.
Carlisle had been growing into the game prior to that chance, and it came as little surprise when the visitors broke the deadlock.
Joel Byrom was at fault as he lost possession in a precarious position outside his own box, Carlisle pounced and Jason Kenny slipped an incisive through ball to Gilliead, who finished coolly past a helpless Adam Smith.
Having made such an assured start, the Cobblers struggled to recover from that setback as Kenney almost added a second moments later before one long ball over the top undid the entire home defence and saw Asamoah through on goal, but Smith did well to save with his knee.
Calvert-Lewin directed a tame header straight at Gillespie in response, but Northampton continued to live dangerously at the other end and they were almost architects of their own downfall once again when O’Toole this time gifted away possession in his own half, though Carlisle were unable to capitalise on this occasion.
United were threatening a second every time they ventured forward and Asamoah was proving a real handful for the hosts and he was a whisker away from doubling the away side’s advantage as his fizzing 20-yard shot clipped the outside of the post.
And that looked to be the last act of the half, but with seconds remaining, Northampton got back on level terms against the run of play.
Calvert-Lewin was both the scorer and the creator as his hard-work forced a corner and Adams’ deep cross was headed home by the teenage striker.
The goal stood despite protests from Carlisle players, who felt there had been a foul on the goalkeeper, and Town went into the break all square.
And the second half had barely got going when Northampton netted a second.
There was a significant element of fortune about it as Hoskins tried his luck from distance having been teed up by Byrom, and the forward’s low effort took a huge deflection which looped up and totally deceived Gillespie before nestling into the net.
Having been content to sit back and play on the break up until that stage, Carlisle were now forced to show more adventure and that left gaps at the back which gave Northampton the opportunity to pick them off.
And it was from one of those breaks that yielded the third goal.
Darnell Furlong powered away down the right and his low cross was turned over by a defender and from the following corner, Adams swung in another teasing cross that Calvert-Lewin met with a sweetly-timed volley which flew into the bottom corner.
The Cobblers were now firmly on top and they threatened to run riot at times with some well-worked counter-attacking football, although there were a couple of hairy moments at the other end with Smith having to palm away a low effort from substitute Joe Thompson.
And United did set up an anxious finish when Wyke poked in at the back post in the first minute of stoppage time, but despite piling forward, Carlisle were unable to force the equaliser and Northampton held on.
Cobblers: Smith, Furlong, Brisley, Cresswell (Diamond 19), Buchanan, O’Toole, Byrom, Adams, Hoskins (Potter 74), Calvert-Lewin (Taylor 85), Richards
Subs not used: Clarke, Watson, Hackett, Lelan
Carlisle: Gillespie, Miller, Atkinson, Archibald-Henville, Gillesphey (Wyke 65), Grainger, Dicker (Thompson 76), Hery, Kennedy, Gilliead, Asamoah (Rigg 65)
Subs not used: Hanford, Joyce, Sweeney, McQueen
Referee: Graham Horwood
Carlisle fans: 254