FA Vase hero Michael Rae says that the "partying" in West Auckland might just about have died down by the time the May 13 final comes around when they will face Northern League rivals Dunston in a historic Wembley showpiece.
Rae and his West team-mates wrote themselves into Darlington Road folklore on Saturday with a battling performance that proved to be too much for Herne Bay.
It was a day of thrills and spills for the team famed for winning the First World Cup in 1909. And they now have the chance to add the FA Vase to their honours list after a dramatic last-four clash.
It is a chance they had to earn against a resilient Herne Bay. First they had to come back from a goal down before Rae’s quick-fire double put them in control against the Kentish side.
Yet there were still 43 minutes remaining when Andrew Green was sent off for violent conduct when he was alleged to have caught Dan Lawrence with an arm. At that stage a nervous silence descended around Darlington Road suggested the advantage was with the visitors.
However, it was West that held out to set up a day few in the County Durham village will forget.
Rae said: “It’s going to be an even bigger day when Wembley comes round.
“The lads will be partying for days. And they we’ll start thinking about the big one.
“It just means so much to the village, the committee, Peter Dixon and Paul Foster – just everybody who is connected.”
The nerves were frayed on Saturday between 4.05pm until the final whistle went 49 minutes later.
Rae could have saved everybody stint of nail-biting when his header in first half stoppage time smacked the post.
He reflected: “I was inches away from a hat-trick just before half-time. That would probably have seen it off.
“But we had to keep going.
“We stayed behind each other all the way and stuck it out.”
The drama began after 10 minutes when West failed to clear a free-kick before the ball was pumped back into the box and Tom Bryant swivelled before beating former Blyth Spartans FA Cup hero Mark Bell.
Order was restored when Rae bundled his way through to calmly and coolly slot home to level the tie up 3-3 on aggregate.
And five minutes later Mattie Moffat’s reverse pass found Rae again before he fired it across the keeper and into the back of the net to make it 2-1.
Despite Green’s red card, it proved enough and the majority of the Darlington Road crowd flooded on to the pitch.
The tears of joy were understandable and justified from manager Peter Dixon who said: “When we went down to 10 men I just told the lads to dig in – and they did.
“Words couldn’t describe it at the final whistle.”
WEST AUCKLAND: Bell, Pattinson, Green, Parker, Stephenson, Banks, Hudson Moffat, Rae, Nicholls (Coad 56).
HERNE BAY: Eason, Ashmore, Bryant, Hanson (Parker 41), Campbell, Jenner, Lawrence, Brown (Williams 75), Turner (Wellings 64), Harvey, Lawson.