Dumbarton were the happier team last night as they moved a step closer to a place in the Irn-Bru First Division with a 2-1 home win over Arbroath, a narrow yet deserved advantage ahead of Saturday's second leg at Gayfield.
The league encounters between these two produced 21 goals over four meetings and, despite the prize on offer being far greater than just three points, neither team appeared to change their approach, with the opening exchanges lively as both went in search of a crucial first-leg advantage.
With just seven minutes on the clock, the fifth encounter of the season had its first goal as Arbroath took the lead. A deep corner from Josh Falkingham evaded everyone inside the area as it floated to the back post, where Stuart Malcolm rose to power a header beyond the home goalkeeper Stephen Grindlay.
The concession of an early goal could have knocked Dumbarton's confidence, but Alan Adamson's side rallied in impressive fashion as they assumed the ascendancy and went in search of a quick reply. It should have arrived after 10 minutes, but Darren Hill, the Arbroath goalkeeper came to the visitors' rescue, denying Craig Dargo from point-blank range after the former St Mirren and Partick Thistle striker connected with Mark Gilhaney's teasing cross from the left flank.
The home crowd did not have to wait long to cheer, however, with Hill this time bound to be less than pleased with his efforts. A 30-yard drive from Scott Agnew seemed innocuous enough, but the goalkeeper could only parry it into the path of Tony Wallace, who bundled the ball home from close range to give Dumbarton a deserved leveller.
It could have got better for Adamson's side before the interval, too, with Agnew again involved as his driving free kick struck Kieran McAnespie and clipped the top of Hill's crossbar.
Just after the hour mark, the turnaround in fortunes was complete for Dumbarton as they took the lead, albeit in controversial circumstances. Referee Craig Charleston ruled that a sliced clearance from Mark Baxter, the Arbroath defender, was an intentional pass-back, and awarded Dumbarton a free kick 16-yards from goal.
The decision incensed Paul Sheerin's players, with their mood not helped moments later as Bryan Prunty smashed the ball low into the net to put the hosts in the driving seat in the tie.