COVENTRY moved into the Elite League’s top four with a 46-43 Brandon win over Belle Vue in a meeting packed with drama from start to finish.
A weakened Buildbase Bees team were second-favourites going into the meeting against the powerful Aces, who had won impressively at Poole on Monday.
And when the visitors led by nine points after Heat 6, it looked like a disastrous 5-0 concession in the fifth race would spell curtains for Coventry.
But another show of character and determination saw them claw back into the meeting, aided by a major stroke of fortune their way in Heat 12, and skipper Chris Harris saw them through with an inspirational display.
Already missing No.1 Krzysztof Kasprzak due to a Grand Prix qualifier, Bees also had to do without British Under-21 Champion Josh Bates with a shoulder injury after a crash at Sheffield on Thursday, with limited guest options for Elite Draft riders leading to a call-up for former Storm rider Robert Branford.
Bees could not have made a worse start with guest Fredrik Lindgren coming to grief on the third bend of Heat 1, and although Jason Garrity held second place in the re-run mechanical issues enabled Max Fricke to go through to join Matej Zagar for a 5-1.
Kacper Woryna, though, got the better of Steve Worrall in the early stages of Heat 2 and four laps of hard charging from James Sarjeant got their reward when he snatched second place on the line from Belle Vue’s normally high-scoring reserve.
Harris and Danny King then laid down a statement of intent with a clear 5-1 over Scott Nicholls and Craig Cook – only for the Worrall brothers to hit back in the next as Sarjeant’s early challenge faded.
Heat 5 all went wrong on turn two for the Bees with Woryna falling as he avoided a locked-up Garrity – and the Pole was disqualified as the cause of the stoppage with his team-mate also thrown out for not being under power, allowing Fricke and Joe Jacobs to cruise to a 5-0 in the re-run.
And when Cook and Zagar headed home King in Heat 6, the Aces had taken three successive races by a 15-2 scoreline and led 22-13 – leaving Bees with a mountain to climb.
That commenced in Heat 7 when Harris led from the front with a last-lap slice of luck their way as second-placed Nicholls slowed out of turn two allowing Lindgren, who had earlier re-passed Richie Worrall, to complete a 5-1.
After a shared Heat 8, Garrity came to the party with a spectacular effort to reel in Richie Worrall, moving inside him going into the last lap of the ninth, with Woryna holding off Steve Worrall for third.
Harris was again dominant in Heat 10 but partner King fell on turn four when trying to complete a trademark outside move which had already taken him past Zagar and could also have seen him clear Fricke.
That left Bees three points down, but the next two races saw the picture change completely, firstly with Garrity making a stunning start in Heat 11 and Lindgren switching inside Nicholls off turn two for a big 5-1 as Cook suffered trouble early on.
Heat 12 looked set to be shared after a fine early battle between Sarjeant and Steve Worrall, with the Aces man in front – but crucially he slowed on the final bend enabling Sarjeant and Woryna to shoot past and put Bees five points ahead.
Cook responded superbly in Heat 13 for the visitors as he fended off every attack Harris could muster, the Bees skipper having bravely rounded Zagar on the back straight to prevent a 5-1 to the Aces.
The pressure was on King in Heat 14 and he duly delivered from the outside in a tough first bend with Nicholls, keeping it wound on out of turn two to round the Belle Vue skipper.
That left Bees needing to avoid a 5-1 concession in the last, with Harris and King going for Coventry, and Fricke and Cook (rather than GP star Zagar) for the Aces, and from the start it looked like the visitors could still be celebrating – but Harris had space to work with on the outside, and a sensational slingshot saw him hit the front on the way out of turn two.
There was one final scare when King fell on the third lap, but he quickly cleared the track enabling the Bees captain to see his side through to victory.
Manager Gary Havelock said: “I’m over the moon with that performance, and it probably feels better even than the wins over Poole and Wolverhampton.
“Belle Vue are the in-form team after they smashed Poole at Wimborne Road on Monday, and with our injuries and missing KK we were underdogs.
“The boys were sensational. I know we had a few bits of luck, but we also had a lot of bike trouble early on, and I don’t think Kacper should have been disqualified when he took avoiding action when Jason threw a chain and ended up in the fence.
“But the way they pulled it back was amazing. I’m proud of them all, and there was such a fighting spirit there to come through again with a win.”
ELITE LEAGUE COVENTRY 46: Chris Harris 13+1, Kacper Woryna 8+1, James Sarjeant 7+2, Danny King 7, Jason Garrity 6+1, Fredrik Lindgren 5+1, Rob Branford 0 BELLE VUE 43: Max Fricke 11+2, Craig Cook 8, Matej Zagar 7+2, Richie Worrall 7+1, Scott Nicholls 4, Joe Jacobs 3+1, Steve Worrall 3+1 Elite League points: Coventry 3 Belle Vue 1