Hendon produced their best performance for almost three months in not only picking up their first victory since Boxing Day, but also in defeating a major playoff rival and climbing back up to third in the Ryman League Premier Division. The victory was vital for so many reasons, but it is a testament to the managerial talent of Gary McCann that it was done, in the end, with flair and panache, rather than being ground out.
With Sam Collins having returned to MK Dons at the end of his loan spell, Hendon restored Lee O'Leary to the starting line-up in a reshuffle midfield and defence, while Davis Haule replaced Belal Aiteouakrim in attack.
The first half was notable for the lack of action in both goalmouths and the tension felt by both teams. For both teams, defeat was unthinkable and it rather paralysed the imagination needed to unlock the defences.
Hendon had two free-kicks close to the penalty area, both from fouls which might have resulted in serious sanction from other referees. As it was, Eddie French had already fallen to the ground between Brian Haule and the ball when he tripped him, but the defender really couldn't roll out of the striker's way, while Haule had nowhere he could go as he chased the ball. Stefan Cox had less excuse for his challenge on Danny Dyer and a card really should have been shown to him.
Unfortunately for Hendon, neither free-kick came to anything. Indeed the second of these resulted in a quick counter-attack and Luke Blackmore was grateful to see Danny Davis fire over the crossbar from a good position.
It was another Hendon free-kick which led directly to Horsham's goal in the 37th minute. The ball was curled into the penalty area by Marc Leach, but it was too close to Paul Seuke, whose punch found Danny Davis on the edge of the centre circle. Davis turned and passed out to the right wing where Lewis Taylor had found some space.
The ball only just reached him, eluding Jamie Busby's attempted interception, but it did give him yards of space up the right wing. He made ground quickly and then delivered an inch-perfect low cross, right into the path of Lee Farrell, who has lost his marker and his side-foot finish was perfectly placed to go just inside the far post.
It was a body blow to Hendon, who although facing the breeze, had the slope in their favour in the first half. As it turned out, the wind proved more of a factor than the contours of the ground.
Having got the goal, Horsham grew in confidence, but their ability to find the target, a problem which manager John Maggs is desperate to remedy, was again found wanting on a couple of occasions.
One particular attack summed up the Hornets. A through ball found Taylor in space. He could have tried to turn inside and fire a shot goalwards. Instead, however, he turned away from the goal, hoping to find either Carney or Tom Graves in support, managed to bisect the pair and gave Hendon a throw-in ten metres from the halfway line.
Half-time proved critical in this game because it gave McCann the chance to make some vital changes to his formation. They worked a treat, because the outlet pass to Taylor no longer existed and the midfield battle swung massively in Hendon's favour.
That said, what might have been Hendon's equaliser two minutes into the period came from a different source. A corner wasn't properly cleared and when the ball was knocked back towards goal but beyond the far post, Casey Maclaren thought it was going to beat him and hesitated momentarily.
The wind, however, was not blowing at the time and he suddenly realised he might be able to reach it. Whether Maclaren actually kept the ball in or not will never be known because there was camera on the goalline. What mattered was that the assistant referee ruled that all of the ball had crossed all of the goalline and he immediately raised his flag. No defenders stopped or reacted to the flag and were therefore no more than spectators as Brian Haule rolled the ball past Seuke.
Hendon celebrations were stilled instantly as the referee awarded a goal kick. Maclaren was certain the ball was still in play; Seuke was fairly sure the ball had gone out; Hendon supporters behind the goal and down the sidelines were fairly equally split as to whether the ball was in or out of play; all of which goes to say it was such a close call that the assistant referee couldn't be faulted for his decision.
And full credit must go to Hendon's players, who didn't let the decision get them down. They knuckled down and continued to pose questions of the home defence. James Parker, Sam Page and Marc Leach pretty much snuffed out the Horsham attacking players; James Burgess and Maclaren stifled the midfield and this allowed O'Leary, Busby and Danny Dyer to make inroads into the less than steady Horsham defence.
A superb near-post cross from Burgess should have brought an equaliser for Davis Haule, but his header was too strong and it flew over the crossbar. A flick would surely have resulted in a goal.
O'Leary had a shot blocked and another defensive intervention did likewise to a Busby effort, although this was on his weaker foot and the off-balance strike would, almost certainly, have resulted in an easy save for Seuke.
The equaliser arrived in the 72nd minute. A Maclaren cross was headed out by a defender into the path of O'Leary, in space 35 yards from goal. He ran forward, tried a shot, but it was blocked and deflected forward, into the path of Busby, who rather scuffed his own shot. Most alert to the slow-moving ball was Brian Haule and his touch diverted it just inside the far post.
Horsham players were incensed, believing Haule to be offside. However, Haule was level with substitute Yinka Salaam - a first-half replacement for Stuart Myall - when the ball was struck. The same could not be said for Dyer, but he clearly was not interfering with play as he was not only behind the last defender, but also beyond the far post.
Although Hendon were in the clear ascendancy, Horsham's potency on the counter-attack gave them hope when they got rare glimpses of possession in space. In the 80th minute, Blackmore made a good save, throwing himself in front of a shot from Farrell. Strangely, as time elapsed the fear of losing, so obvious in the first half, was forgotten as both teams looked for a winner.
Aiteouakrim had replaced Haule for the final 15 minutes and he was joined off the bench by Lubo Guentchev for the final minute of normal time. The substitutions proved to be master-strokes, because the two substitutes created and scored the decisive goal.
Maclaren brought the ball forward, played the ball to O'Leary and got it back from him. Making space infield, Maclaren passed to Guentchev, who had to stretch to reach the ball and pass it to Aiteouakrim.
By putting the ball on Aiteouakrim's left side, it forced the striker to turn and get the ball on his left foot. The marking defender was wrong-footed and out position thanks to Aiteouakrim's turn and it allowed the striker to see a straight line at goal.
Hitting the ball first-time didn't allow Seuke to set himself for a shot and Aiteouakrim's strike was so perfect, he would probably have struggled to reach it anyway as the ball flew into the net inches under the crossbar. It was a magnificent strike, matching the comeback and the importance of the result.
Even though the game was in it the 92nd minute, there were still another five minutes of stoppage time to be played, during which time Horsham won two free-kicks on the edge of the Hendon penalty area.
Neither of them came to anything and the final whistle was greeted by Hendon players, management and supporters if something far more important than three points had been won. In reality, of the Greens' 14 League wins this season, this one must rank in the top three or four.
"On the back of where we've been in recent weeks and results, we have been so professional," said Mr McCann. "Although the confidence has been down during the our recent run, I can't fault their professionalism and discipline and, today, it was exceptional.
"I am delighted with the performance. They boys showed so much spirit in coming back and even when we had the goal disallowed, we didn't let our heads drop.
"I made a couple of tactical changes in the second half to stop them using Taylor as an outlet on their right wing and it worked a treat. Lee O'Leary and Jamie Busby took control of the midfield and we dominated."