Photo: Martin Bazyl
A scoreless affair until just past the hour mark, Durham left back Bruce Cullen (60') opened the scoring while teammate Kashiff De Jonge (90 + 2') finished it off after a torrid final thirty minutes as Durham edged Masters 3-2.
"For me, this is a big learning experience," said Durham head coach, Sanford Carabin. "We went up 2-0 and we had an extra man, and it's the same old adage - you get complacent."
"We never thought we'd be threatened, and they got one set piece and scored. We got away from what we do, and their second goal gave them belief. We lost composure and it was enough to let them back in. That little brief moment that changed everything, I think will help the players understand the importance of keeping composure."
Despite both Masters and Durham starting the match with attacking resolve and the creation of a handful of half-chances, the game soon bogged down to a midfield battle for which neither side could find a solution.
Photo: Martin Bazyl
Durham appeared to edge the early going, as first Cullen and then De Jonge missed the net with solid efforts, but the chance of the half fell to Masters after being awarded a penalty in the final minute of the first frame. Isaiah Page wasn't able to capitalize however, sending the ball wide of the target. The error would hang over Masters heads until the end.
Cullen's breakthrough finally opened the floodgates on the match at the hour mark, initiating a series of events that led to a dramatic close.
Within two minutes of the restart, Masters were down to ten men following the dismissal of Johnson. Durham didn't take long to capitalize, with Le Rohne Young (67') adding the home team's second of the night.
The momentum appeared to be clearly with Durham, but suddenly fortunes turned as Masters' Brown (75') showed significant composure to get on the ball and slot low inside the far post.
Pumping adrenaline was evident immediately as the visitors then found the equalizer within two minutes, Masters' Rayne (77') getting the equalizer despite the one man disadvantage.
Tyrell Rayne (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
"Up until we scored our second goal in the second half, I didn't see a lot from them until they started to catch us a bit on the break," said Carabin.
"We have a few new players playing in key positions and they figured that out early on."
With only seven minutes left in the match, the sides were again levelled as Durham's Le Shaun Young saw his second caution of the night.
Fortune appeared to have truly smiled on Masters when, in the final minute of regular time, another penalty was awarded against Durham. Masters' Malcolm may have felt nerves at the prospect of the late comeback though, as his spot kick went directly into the waiting arms of Durham GK Ben Cowman.
Sensing one final opportunity, the ever lively De Jonge made sure an already eventful night wouldn't end without reward, sending an absolute stunner of a match winner low and hard to complete the head-shaking 3-2 result.
"We work hard as a group and it's ok," said Masters head coach, Andre Savelev.
"I'm not happy but it's a workable situation. This is a young group, and they are new together. Today was a little better than the first two matches, and we look forward to the next."
Kashiff De Jonge (Photo: Martin Bazyl)