Phil Parkinson singled out resilience as the defining factor behind a dramatic Altrincham victory in a nerve-shredding Vanarama National League North play-off eliminator against derby rivals Chester at The J.Davidson Stadium.

The behind-closed-doors tie looked like being a formality for the Robins after they went 3-0 up midway through the second-half, with Chester already reduced to 10 men.

But Chester made light of their numerical disadvantage and hit back with two goals in a remarkable transformation that left Alty hanging on for a 3-2 win that sets up a semi-final at York City on Saturday.

“It looks really poor being 3-0 up against 10 men and allowing them back in it, but we are playing against the best teams in the league,” said Alty boss Parkinson. “That’s why we are in the play-offs, so we will take the positives from the day.

“I thought the resilience we showed was exactly what you need to go up from this league. I’ve been really pleased with the way we have developed defensively, and that came to the fore when they bombarded us near the end. It could have swung the other way, but we showed an abundance of character to make sure it didn’t.

"You need that, but there was also real quality from us to get ourselves in cruise control. To score three goals in a tight game after four months out was a big achievement for our players."

Referee David McNamara came in for scathing criticism from Chester joint-manager Anthony Johnson, but Parkinson backed the penalty decision and straight red card for former Alty winger John Johnston for a push on Dan Mooney, who was clean through on goal.

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“I never like to see anyone sent off, particularly a lad who used to play for us,” he said. “But he was the last man and he pushed Dan in the back, so it was a penalty and red card. It was 100 per cent right. I didn’t even give it a second thought.

"It was tough for the ref. It was a physical game that got heated, and there were niggles, but I felt he was strong. He was the right man for the job, and he did a good job for both teams. You needed someone strong out there, and he was."

Alty went ahead with a fierce drive from Josh Hancock that flew under keeper Louis Gray’s dive and looked home and dry when Elliott Durrell made it six goals in five appearances for the Robins with a quickfire double early in the second half.

But as he prepared for the York clash, Parkinson admitted his side had to rectify the errors that allowed Chester back in it.

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‘Mistakes cost us for those two goals. I don’t know whether it was a bit of ring rust or fatigue, but it was disappointing,” he said.

“We’ve got a good record at York, and we are looking forward to the game. If we had been offered this position at the start of the season, needing to win three games to go up, we would have taken it.

“That’s one out of the way – hopefully we can tackle the next two just as successfully.”

Alty defender James Jones has turned down the offer of a new improved contract at Moss Lane and is in talks with other clubs.