Alfreton Town kicked off their season with a dramatic defeat which saw them beaten 4-3 by Stockport in injury-time.
The visitors looked down and out at half-time having twice drifted two goals behind, but a vastly improved second half performance allowed the Reds to claw their way back to parity by the 55th minute, only to have their aspirations dashed in added time.
Only Andy Monkhouse and Craig Westcarr had not previously played competitively for the Reds in the starting line-up, with both Evan Garnett and Terry Kennedy making their debuts late in the game.
The hosts swept into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 14 minutes, keeper Ben Hinchcliffe setting up Danny Lloyd for the opportunity to sweep the ball past Fabian Spiess from the edge of the area in the fourth minute.
Ten minutes later Alfreton were reeling when John Marsden headed home a Kayode Odejayi cross following a long throw from Scott Duxbury, with a degree of simplicity.
Tom Allan’s header from a Niall Heaton throw tested Ben Hinchcliffe in the home goal, but Spiess had to save a sharp volley from Marsden before the Reds’ best effort to date in the 24th minute when Brad McGowan’s shot from close range was turned behind by the keeper.
Marsden forced another good save out of Spiess in the 38th minute, but the loose ball fell to Lewis Montrose with his shot cannoning off both Heaton and the foot of the post.
Two minutes into first half added time Monkhouse sprayed the ball out to Dan Bradley on the right, and with Stockport’s defenders screaming for an off-side decision against Westcarr in the middle Paul Clayton swept the skipper’s deep cross into the net at the back post.
The Reds’ delight lasted only a few seconds though as Odejayi was allowed to head home a Lloyd cross with the clock showing 48 minutes, and the half-time deficit was 3-1.
Manager Nicky Law swapped the defensive formation for the second half, with Joe Doyle withdrawn and Heaton swapped to right-back, Alfreton taking just four minutes to cut the arrears with Allan stretching to stab a deep Heaton throw past Hinchcliffe from eight yards.
Allan then drew another good save from Hinchcliffe when McGowan pumped the ball through to him, then ten minutes after the break Bradley latched on to a loose ball 30 yards out to smash the ball high into the net in spectacular fashion.
Boosted by this the Reds searched for a winner, Westcarr denied by the keeper after Bradley’s 70th minute cross had picked out Clayton, then another long throw from Heaton saw Westcarr again thwarted by Hinchcliffe.
Seven minutes from time Allan picked up a second yellow card, just as he had on the opening day of last season at Bradford Park Avenue, and Alfreton had to try to hold out with ten men.
Unfortunately, despite County having done very little since conceding their third goal, up popped Gary Stopforth in the second minute of added time to drill the ball past Spiess from 12 yards following a free-kick on the left.
lncredibly this was Alfreton’s first away defeat of 2016, having not been beaten on their travels since losing 1-0 at Lowestoft Town eight months earlier on 5th December.
Alfreton: Spiess; Doyle (Jordan 45 mins), McGowan, Heaton, Allan, Nyoni, Bradley, Wilson (Kennedy 86 mins, Monkhouse, Westcarr (Garnett 81 mins), Clayton.
Sub not used: Smith.
Att: 2632 (87 away).