Tranmere 2 - 1 Town. TOWN were left stunned by old boy Kevin Gray as they came away from Prenton Park empty handed after bossing the game and leading it for 70 minutes.
Gray's winner quickly followed an equaliser scored by substitute Jason Price for Rovers who had looked dead and buried for much of the match.
Mick Wadsworth's men were quickest to shake off early nerves as they took control of the game against a strangely nervous Rovers side.
Jon Stead was making the most of his first full start wide on the left with a few runs at and past Rovers 3-man defence which was marshalled by Kevin Gray.
Scott McDonald was quickly finding his range after being handed a central role by Mick Wadsworth and he went close by skimming Achterberg's bar with a run into the area to meet Dwayne Mattis' well weighted ball.
Town had already shaken off their nerves with a good start at the back - Kevin Sharp was alert enough to clear a Simon Howarth deflected effort off the Town goal line.
Mick Wadsworth's men should have put the game out of sight after a superlative start past a Rovers side who were second best for long periods.
Town's frontmen were particularly impressive, with Thorrington mesmerising wide upfront, despite not always using the best options.
Scott McDonald finally opened his Town account in style with a superb turn and finish past John Achterberg just before half time in a pulsating first period.
The half was marred by a serious looking injury to Alan Navarro following an innocuous tackle by Dwayne Mattis although Danny Harrison came on for the former Liverpool man and provided a couple of good chances for Simon Howarth.
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Rovers switched tactics to 4-3-3 to match Town in the second half and, despite a couple of breakaways by Scott McDonald causing problems - Kevin Gray was the rock at the back who stopped the Australian at the start of the second half.
Howarth should have made more of a late chance which placed onto a plate for him by Jason Koumas after the mercurial midfielder had slipped away from Eddie Youds.
In the event, however, giant Town keeper Scott Bevan made the save.
Eddie Youds needed to be alert to clear as Moses and Bevan's miscommunication almost allowed Tranmere a scoring chance from Shane Nicholson's whipped in cross.
Rovers' early second half confidence was short-lived, however, as the Terriers regained their grip on the game and squeezed the life out of the Rovers midfield.
For all their dominance, however, Town were failing to build on their lead. Thorrington and Stead were frustrated by tighter defending in the second half while Tranmere were making more tactical changes.
Concern for the lack of killer goals for Town soon turned to frustration and then despair after Rovers sub Jason Price levelled the scores after Scott Bevan could only palm away an effort by Iain Hume during one of Tranmere's increasingly desperate looking long ball attacks.
Kevin Gray piled on the misery when he took advantage of slack Town marking after a Rovers counter-attack intercepted a poor clearance. Iain Hume provided a great cross for Gray who gleefully sidefooted the ball past Bevan.
There was little time to think for Town who tried in vain to get the equaliser with all three strikers going close but not close enough.
Town scorer: McDonald 43
Tranmere Scorers: Price 71, Gray 77
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