FOUR away goals still weren't enough to overcome a talented Star & Garter side and send a plucky Frolesworth United to the Alliance League Premier Division summit, as the home side came back from behind to clinch all three points courtesy of Jake Limbert's 25-yard piledriver.
Both sides conjured up a 2-2 draw in an entertaining contest when they last met and from the moment Andy Morris hauled down George Himan in the sixth minute, another thriller was on the cards as the prolific striker put the hosts in front from the spot.
But the Rabbits hit back in astonishing fashion with their first attack of the game, when the sublime Callum Wills' cross was converted by Harry Simmons' acrobatic scissor-kick. Himan restored Star's advantage after Martin Fennon deflected the cross kindly into his path, but Wills squared things up again after latching on to Dom Ivens' incisive through ball and hammering into the far corner to bring a pulsating first-half to a close.
Limbert put the home side in front for the third time shortly after the restart, but Ben Harris' side responded once again as skipper Fennon dispatched from 12-yards after Wills was upended in the box and Simmons converted his second after Ivens' long-range effort had been parried. But United couldn't protect their lead as Himan completed his hat-trick with another tap-in before Limbert broke Frolesworth hearts merely 60 seconds later when he plundered in an unstoppable drive from long range.
Frolesworth had been out of action since their hard-fought 3-2 win over GT almost a month ago and Harris was without top goalscorer Joe Cook for the short trip to Countesthorpe, as the former Coventry City striker had failed to sufficiently recover from a broken wrist.
Defensive partnership Harry Shervington and Daniel Herring had been impressive in the victories over Glenfield and GT, but alongside goalkeeper Sam Green, Harvey Morgan, Tom Stokes and Jack Sutherland, they would remain sidelined to face last season's Division One winners.
The Yorkeshireman instead handed club secretary Luke Evans his third start of the season in goal, behind a makeshift back-four, which saw Jack Boulton return alongside Andy Morris, who was shifted to centre-half. Joe Swanwick made his first start since February at right-back, while Steven Bottom was preferred on the left instead of chairman Josh Baines.
Fennon returned to captain the side in the holding role alongside Jake Pantony, with Miles Splevings, Ivens and Wills behind lone-wolf Simmons and predictably, the visitors were content to sit back and allow Star to dominate possession in the early exchanges.
That plan, however, was thrown out the window after barely five minutes when Luke Cooper's side were handed the opportunity to get their noses in front from the penalty spot. Employed as a makeshift centre-back, Morris was keen to get to grips with last season's 50-goal forward Himan but he was perhaps too eager in his intentions and after getting too tight, he could only tug him to the turf.
The former Trinderbox striker dusted himself down to confidently dispatch his kick, prompting Harris to thrust Morris into midfield and drop the captain back to attempt to thwart Himan's potent threat. United had endured a torrid start on this ground on the season's opening day - 3-0 down inside half an hour - and were determined not to suffer a similar fate, but they ventured forward with caution.
Simmons was one of the success stories from last season's promotion campaign, forging a reputation for scoring important goals from off the bench and he made his first start at The Meadows, threatening firstly with a powerful drive before equalising with the visitors' first meaningful foray forward.
Wills has cut a frustrated figure of late having been exiled on the left, but his contribution remained imperious as he galloped down the outside left before sending in a teasing cross, which was just behind the giant striker. But despite not being renowned for his supple mobility, the 19-year-old somehow cocked his left leg upwards to volley home the leveller with an outrageous flick of the heel.
The goal stunned even the bench of the visitors and Star were visibly rocked, Ivens this time getting in behind before plumping to cut the ball back when in hindsight he may have wished to shoot. Simmons then tested the hosts' stopper from distance, before Harris was dealt another blow when Pantony, who had begun the game with a dead leg, could not continue and was withdrawn for Baines.
Bottom moved into midfield, with the chairman at left-back and he was caught in behind when Himan doubled his tally. Fennon was drawn out of the centre as he turned his attentions to blocking the cross, but when his attempted diversion fell kindly into the path of Himan there was only going to be one result.
But just as they had earlier, the Rabbits fought back through their sharpest thorn, Wills. Just as he had for Simmons' opener, he latched onto Ivens' clipped ball behind the full-back before terrorising the hosts' defence and lashing an unstoppable equaliser into the far corner.
It brought an enthralling opening period to a close with both managers seeking to tighten their defence, but as the sides took to the field after the break the game continued in a similar vain and it took just seven minutes for the home side to snatch the lead for the third time.
If Harris was disappointed with the two goals his side had conceded so far, then Limbert's first would have been even worse as both full-backs, Baines and Swanwick, could not sufficiently clear the danger and the former Advance Couriers winger made them pay when he spun in the box to fire a powerful low drive past Evans from the resulting corner.
It meant that yet again the visitors would have to come back from behind, but they turned this already remarkable game on its head with two goals inside three second-half minutes. Cooper had moved Ross Lavin over to right-back in an attempt to deal with the jinking runs of Wills, but when he got in behind for the umpteenth time the former Sparta Moshdock defender could only clip the youngster's heels and referee Mr. Martin Dexter pointed to the spot for the second time.
Fennon had converted on this ground in the 5-2 defeat against Magna and the captain was once again coolness personified as he confidently dispatched to haul United level once again. But just three minutes later, Harris' side finally had their noses in front for the first time in the game when Simmons gleefully smashed home his second.
This had been Ivens' best game in a claret shirt for some time and he had constantly drove the visitors forward with his marauding long-range passes, but this time he chose to carry it himself before unleashing a tremendous dipping drive that squirmed free of the goalkeeper into Simmons' path, before he put his laces through it to slam home United's fourth.
You would have been forgiven for thinking the scoring had finally ceased, but with seven goals in 60 minutes so far there was still time for strikes at either end and it was the Division One champions' turn to hit back when Himan completed his hat-trick, beating both Evans and a sprawling Boulton to a lose ball in the box to prod home.
If you'd lost count of the score, it was now astonishingly 4-4, a scoreline that would have been scarcely predicted as the game remained so open but unfortunately for Harris' plucky side, they would be made to pay for a careless error as Morris surrendered possession in the middle of the park and after the ball was worked out wide, Limbert smashed an unstoppable shot into the far corner that left Evans with no chance.
The inquest immediately began amongst those in claret, with the young winger allowed plenty of space to fire the decisive winner and at this level any invitation to shoot is dangerous. With time now running out, the home side decided to drop deep and protect what they had, as Frolesworth's plan to spring on the break evolved into all hands to the pump with Wills and the quiet Splevings now thrown up front as Harris went 4-3-3.
Wills once again got in behind, skipping past Nick Gomez but his attempted lob just didn't have enough on it to evade the goalkeeper. Simmons then smashed one across the face, it took a deflection but landed kindly and with just minutes left, Ivens sent in a delightful free-kick but the home side survived the barrage and Frolesworth's herculean efforts would somehow fail to yield any points.