IN THE end all there was that separated the Australian Army Thunder and Bellingen Valley-Dorrigo was a couple of inches.
The Magpies started slowly to trail 16-0 after only 22 minutes but once they wrested back momentum the Thunder was forced to hang on for dear life.
Even when the Australian Army team extended the lead to 12 points with less than a quarter of an hour to play there was a sense the storyline of this contest had one more major plot twist left in it.
The twist came when former Test and origin player Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, playing in a guest role with Bellingen, scored next to the right upright before slender fullback Shane Holten used his speed with only moments remaining to cross the try line toward the left sideline to put the Magpies only two points down with a kick to come.
The rsponsibility to tie the scores fell to five-eighth Cameron Blair.
Blair struck his kick nicely and his body language suggested he momentarily thought he'd kicked the conversion but alas the kick missed just to the right leaving a Thunder outfit relieved to walk away with a two point win for the second year in a row.
"Bellingen pulled together a good team and pushed us right to the bell again," Thunder co-captain Jason Brand said.
"We had a fair few debutants this year and they pulled their weight and done the Army proud, so pretty happy with the way it unfolded."
While the Army Thunder have a few matches on their calendar each year, fullback and co-captain Mahn Darley said the Sgt Matthew Locke MG Charity Event holds a special significance for the team.
"It's fantastic, year in, year out the boys really want to get here to play this game," Pte Darley said.
"We play a few more games during the year but everyone wants to be here for this game, it's such a great cause.
"Matty Locke is deep within our hearts as well as all the other guys that have served and unfortunately lost their lives overseas. That's the reason we're here."