Hendon produced an outstanding overall performance to overcome Skrill (Conference) North club Oxford City at Earlsmead on Sunday afternoon. The victory puts the Greens in the last 64 of the FA Trophy for the first time since 2004-05.
With Casey Maclaren starting his suspension, Sam Flegg came in at centre-half, while the success enjoyed by Anthony Thomas a week earlier meant he earnt his place in the starting line-up, Dave Diedhiou dropping to the bench.
For 20 minutes, there was little of note to record as the two teams vainly probed each other for weaknesses. Oxford, at the wrong end of Skrill (Conference) North, despite inflicting a 4-1 defeat on Stockport County a week earlier, certainly didn't look like a team from a higher level and, if anything, Hendon looked the more accomplished.
After 18 minutes, Chris Seeby made a break into the Oxford penalty area. He was able to get off a shot, but Paul Stonehouse slid in to block the effort before his goalkeeper was forced into action.
The Greens created three excellent openings in two minutes just before the half-hour. A well-worked corner ended with Lee O'Leary heading the ball past Victor Francoz, but the goalkeeper had two men behind him and Adam Learoyd headed the ball off the line, just in front of Michael Pook.
When Hendon regained possession, Michael Bryan went on a mazy run, leaving Declan Banjamin sitting on the Earlsmead turf, then tried to bend a shot just inside the far post. There were three green-shirted players screaming for a cross, so as the shot narrowly missed the target, maybe Bryan took the wrong option.
Moments later, Thomas did even better with a direct run past four defenders. There was a little bit of luck as he stumbled over one man and found the ball back at his feet, but he continued on towards goal.
Jefferson Louis attracted the attention of another defender resulting in his half-hearted challenge on Thomas, who was suddenly left with only Francoz to beat. His shot, however, was well blocked by the goalkeeper using his legs. It would have been one the great Hendon goals.
When Hendon were crushed by Bishop's Stortford in the FA Cup, a goal just before half-time broke their resolve. This time, the opening goal came even closer to the interval - in the last minute of the 45 - and was a real setback for the Greens.
Jamie Cook made a mazy run which took him past two defenders. He laid the ball back into the path of Mike Symons, who crashed a shot past Berkley Laurencin.
The ball struck the underside of the crossbar and in the ensuing chaos, Benjamin was able to apply the finishing touch. There was still time for Oxford to launch another raid, but this time it came to nothing.
Whatever was said in the Hendon dressing room at half-time worked, because the Greens came out with steely glints in their eyes and a determination to get back into the game. Two minutes after the resumption, Thomas set up Louis, but Francoz made another save.
Oxford appeared content to let Hendon attack and offered almost nothing in terms of attacking threat. This offensive inertia allowed Hendon's defensive players to get into more advanced positions, best illustrated by a 30-yard run from James Fisher, which was finished by a cracking drive which Francoz saved at the second attempt.
After an hour, Marvin Robinson replaced the increasingly ineffective Cook, but he did little to enhance City's attacking prowess. A minute later, Flegg arrived the far post, but the pressure from Symons was enough to put off the centre-half, whose header just missed the outside of the post and went into the side-netting.
It was Oxford's last escape, because the next time Hendon attacked they equalised. It was a superb team goal, created by a lovely exchange of passes between the equally outstanding O'Leary and Jack Bennett.
Oâ€™Leary's perfectly-timed and weighted ball behind Benjamin gave Bennett the chance to pick out a number of green shirts in and around the penalty area. Instead of going for one of the big men inside the box, however, Bennett rolled the ball to the edge of the D, where Carl McCluskey was waiting without a marker close by.
The pass was perfect, McCluskey's shot possibly better and Francoz had no chance as the ball flew into the net. Amazingly, that goal did nothing to lift Oxford's torpor and, in truth, the only likely winners were not wearing blue and white hoops.
If Hendon's first goal was typical of the quick, clever passing for which Gary McCann's team are notable for, the second was down to the change in style the present squad brings. Kevin Maclaren and O'Leary had shored up the midfield, allowing the clever ball--layer Bryan (or Tony Taggart) and the more physical and direct McCluskey to roam freely in forward postions, while full-backs Seeby and Bennett offer a more consistently dangerous attacking threat.
It was a ball from Seeby which opened up the Oxford defence. Played down the right wing, he released Louis in full stride. The big striker showed he is not just a finisher by running to the edge of the penalty area, six yards out, and drilling a low cross.
Francoz came out, but didn't get close to the powerfully hit cross. Running in behind him was THhomas, and his sidefoot smashed into the net. "We call that a goal ball," said manager Gary McCann, "and Jefferson has created and scored them for us."
Almost immediately, Chris Palmer and Chris Willmott came on for Oxford, Benjamin and Callum McNish making way. Hendon replaced Bryan with Dean Cracknell and, a few minutes later, Taggart came on for Thomas, who was cheered off the pitch by happy Hendon fans.
The last five minutes of normal time and five of stoppages were spent with Hendon facing their first stern examination of the match. With desperation clearly visible, the Oxford attacked lacked the clarity of thought to break down the stubborn Hendon defence.
That was until three minutes of additional time had been played. Oxford fans, if not the players, had twice screamed for penalties, without any reaction from the referee but, on this occasion, O'Leary's lunging attempt to block a shot from just outside the penalty struck him on the elbow.
The referee pointed to the penalty spot and waved away mild Hendon protests. Oxford skipper Darren Pond took responsibility for the spot-kick, but he was denied by a magnificent save from Laurencin, who reached the ball inches from the post.
There was still time for the resulting corner and another minute of frantic, nerve-shredding tension, but the final whistle brought proceedings to an end and another famous FA Trophy win.