Twenty-one minutes into this evening's extra.ie FAI Cup quarter-final between Finn Harps and Shamrock Rovers, the home club's official Twitter account posted a message which read: "WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?" And that was before the drama began to unfold.
At that stage, Ollie Horgan’s hosts and rank outsiders were two up through goals from Barry McNamee and Stephen Folan in swirling rain at Finn Park.
Then, in five bonkers second-half minutes, the visitors and Premier Division champions were awarded three penalties – the second and third of which were dispatched by Aaron McEneff after he missed the first.
Thinking they’d dodged a bullet to stay 2-0 up after the squandered spot-kick, Harps were berating the injustice of it all it five minutes later when it was 2-2, with all of the play confined to one part of the soggy pitch.
From then on, it was Rovers who sensed victory and Graham Burke provided the winner on 71 minutes.
When the tweet went out, it was reactive of the stir cause by Harps’ excellent start, no doubt accompanied with the flavour-of-the-month 'STOP THE COUNT’ follow-up messages online.
The home team, which avoided the relegation play-off on the last day of the season by the width of the post, were two up on the league champions and were good value for it.
Fifteen minutes in, McNamee opened the scoring with a goal that showed the class of the former Derry City skipper. Mark Russell sent Adam Foley hurtling forward and having taken the ball towards the River End corner flag, before squaring inside, McNamee took a delicate first touch with his right before firing home the opening goal with his left.
Then, six minutes later, former Hoop Ryan Connolly put in a free-kick from the same corner and Folan, rather unconventionally, stooped low to loop a header high, back past Mannus for a second goal.
Match referee Rob Hennessy’s first call was met with derision on 49 minutes when Liam Scales went to ground without being asked twice, under attention from Sam Todd.
McEneff went low and hard, but so did McGinley who saved and the ball rebounded to Ronan Finn. His instant ball in was adjudged to have been handled by Mark Russell, who had turned to protect himself. It was another penalty, this time on 51 minutes, and McEneff shot past McGinley to pull one back.
Bizarrely, Hennessey was pointing to the spot again two minutes later, after Burke rounded McGinley before going to ground. McEneff made no mistake and made it 2-2.
The scattered few masked club officials backed up the Harps substitutes in voicing their dissatisfaction at Burke’s willingness to hit the turf. You couldn’t help but wonder what the atmosphere might’ve been like in normal circumstances.
Horgan has been in the wars with the referring fraternity all season and his reaction here was like an omnibus edition. He was irate, probably wondering "what the hell is happening?". Worse was to come.
Nineteen minutes from time, Burke bundled home the winner from a rebound from close range after McGinley had punched a header from Jack Byrne away following Sean Kavanagh’s cross. It set up a semi-final meeting with Derry City or Sligo Rovers.
Harps spent the latter stages optimistically shouting "penalty" from various Eircodes in the general Finn Valley area.
The closest they came to forcing extra-time was from a late scramble, which Rovers cleared, and at the bitter of bitter ends, McEneff almost completed the most unlikely of hat-tricks when he shot from his own half just over an unguarded net with McGinley up supporting the Harps attack.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley; Karl O’Sullivan, Dave Webster, Stephen Folan, Sam Todd; Mark Coyle (Leo Donnellan 61), Gareth Harkin (Ruairi Harkin 61), Ryan Connolly, Mark Russell (Raff Cretero 74); Barry McNamee; Adam Foley (Alexander Kogler 74).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien, Lee Grace (Roberto Lopes, half-time), Liam Scales, Danny Lafferty (Sean Kavanagh, half-time); Ronan Finn, Aaron McEneff, Dylan Watts, Aaron Greene (Thomas Oluwa 87); Jack Byrne, Graham Burke (Rhys Marshall 80).
Referee: Rob Hennessy.