DONCASTER Rovers gave their fans a belated Christmas present when snatching a dramatic stoppage-time win against Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park.
The third game between the two sides in just over a month looked to be heading for a 1-1 draw until substitute David Syers grabbed a winner to send the 800 Doncaster fans into raptures.
Rovers had been second best for most of the first half but came more into the game in the second.
Rovers, who were making their second visit to Boundary Park in a month, showed six changes to their starting line-up on their last visit in the FA Cup, which ended in a 3-1 defeat.
But they showed only one change to the side beaten 4-1 at home by Coventry last time out, Jamie McCombe resuming his centre-back partnership with skipper Rob Jones for the first time in over two months. Tommy Spurr moved across the back-four to accomodate him with James Husband dropping to the bench.
Rovers, who got the game under way in torrential rain, took the lead after three minutes.
Striker Billy Paynter headed against the far post after getting on the end of David Cotterill’s free-kick and Jones was on hand to fire home the rebound from about eight yards out.
It wasn’t the sort of start that the Latics had been hoping for as they looked to bounce back from a 4-1 drubbing at Yeovil on Saturday - a day when Rovers were beaten by the weather.
The home side hit back looking for an early equaliser and forced several corners without ever testing keeper Woods until leading scorer Jose Baxter’s 25 yarder on 15 minutes.
McCombe did well to block a shot by striker Matt Smith at the expense of a throw-in.
The Latics remained on the attack and left-winger Youssouf M’Changama, who had needed lengthy spell of treatmnent for a knee injury earlier in the half, gave Woods no chance with a superb strike from just outside the area on 27 minutes to level the scores at 1-1.
Woods did well to keep out a powerful header from Smith, who got on the end of Baxter’s free-kick, at the expense of 34th minute corner.
Oldham played on with 10 men while Smith had treatment in the medical room for a cut head.
The Latics continued to take the game to Rovers, however, and Baxter’s 25 yarder just flashed past the near post.
Paul Keegan’s 25-yarder shot, following a neat build-up, hit a defender on the edge of the box.
M’Changama tested Woods with a low shot from inside the box in the 44th minute.
Defender Jean-Yves M’Voto headed over from a stoppage-time corner as the 10-man Latics continued to force the pace.
The home side had come back well after going behind early on and could count themselves unlucky not to be ahead at the break after looking the better side for long periods.
Smith, his head bandaged, returned to the fray at the start of the second half.
Right-back Quinn and Cotterill combined well down the right for Rovers only for the winger’s cross to be headed clear.
Smith headed wide from a right-wing cross on 53 minutes.
Oldham scrambled a far post header by Iain Hume clear.
Rovers boss Dean Saunders made change on 63 minutes.
He replaced Keegan, booked a minute or so earlier, with the more attack-minded David Syers and the switch almost paid off almost immediatelly - keeper Dean Bouzanis denying Paynter on the line from Cotterill’s cut back.
Cotterill broke clear on 67 minutes but perhaps waited to long to get a shot on goal, and was eventually robbed in the box by M’Voto.
Kyle Bennett was booked for a 74th minute foul and he was joined in Mr Lewis’s book by Hume, after he appeared to question the referee’s decision.
Despite the rain continuing to fall, the pitch was holding up well - though the game had lost much of its earlier intensity.
Rovers made a second change on 79 minutes, Chris Brown replacing Paynter.
Jones headed well wide from Spurr’s cross.
Bouzanis saved well from substitute James Husband in the first minute of stoppage time, minute but he could do nothing to prevent Syers scoring from the resulting cross back into the box.
Smith had a late chance to snatch an equaliser at the death.
Oldham: Bouzanis 6 Wabara 6 M’Voto 7 Byrne 6 Grounds 6 Croft 6 Furman 6 Wesolowski6 M’Changama 7 Smith 6 Baxter 7 Substitutes: Cisak Brown Montano Taylor Millar Hughes Winchester
Rovers: G Woods 7 Quinn 6 Jones 7 McCombe 6 Spurr 6 Cotterill 6 Keegan *6 Harper Bennett ***6 Hume Paynter **6 Substitutes: Husband ***83 Martis Syers *63 Brown **79 Blake Maxted Griffin