Lee Hughes came off the bench to grab the decisive goal in a 3-2 triumph over Shrewsbury Town at Meadow Lane this afternoon. The 90 minutes was packed with excitement and Notts County had to come from behind to claim the win, which lifted them to the top of npower League 1.
Francois Zoko kicked off the scoring in the 57th minute, following unselfish work in the right channel by Jeff Hughes. Before the celebrations had died down, Dean Leacock was seen to have fouled striker Marvin Morgan inside the area and Matt Richards made it 1-1 from the spot.
Jermaine Grandison's individual effort then gave the Shrews the lead with 28 minutes left on the clock. That was enough time for Keith Curle's side to take all three points, as Jeff Hughes headed home three minutes later to make it 2-2, before Lee Hughes came off the bench to score a late winner.
One change was made from the previous weekend's triumph over Bury, with Yoann Arquin replacing Lee Hughes at the spearhead of the County attack. Hughes, who netted at Gigg Lane, dropped to the bench, as Notts looked to make it three wins on the bounce in all competitions.
The most recent home fixture had seen the Magpies defeated by Walsall but there was a determination within the squad to make Meadow Lane a fortress. With a bumper crowd in attendance thanks to the Family Fun Day, Notts set out to give them something to cheer about from the off.
Within two minutes, Arquin showed great pace and power to get the better of Reuben Hazell on the edge of the box but the Shrews' centre-back managed to recover, producing a fine block. Moments later, Alan Sheehan picked out Francois Zoko with a pin-point cross that the Ivorian directed into the arms of away stopper Chris Weale.
On 10, Sheehan provided another superb delivery, this time towards Jeff Hughes, who rose well to nod the ball across goal. Judge failed to connect cleanly with his first-time effort, but it caused havoc inside the goalmouth and the visitors were fortunate to escape.
Andre Boucaud was next to try his luck, when he gathered a clearance 25 yards from goal. The holding midfielder proceeded to beat his man with some clever footwork and curled towards the top-right corner, forcing Weale into an uncertain parry.
Boucaud then had to make a crucial interception at the other end of the pitch to prevent frontman Marvin Morgan's in-swinging centre from finding a man in a dangerous area. Shrewsbury also threatened through Terry Gornell, who headed over from Grandison's free-kick.
As the match edged closer to half time, Sheehan drilled over with a direct free-kick, prior to being withdrawn through injury and replaced by Carl Regan. For the visitors, Mark Wright's pacy set-piece was curled inches past the post, with Gornell almost gaining a decisive, headed touch.
Gornell came even closer to giving his side the lead ahead of the interval, when his powerful drive towards the top-right corner dipped inches over. Arquin nearly made it 1-0 to County as well, riding a challenge before drilling into the side netting from distance.
The second period started how the first finished - an end-to-end affair - and in the 54th minute, Bartosz Bialkowski had to make a stunning save to keep out Morgan, who had turned his marker to fire forcefully at goal. The County stopper then claimed the resulting corner to set Notts of on the counter, which Judge rounded off by striking marginally wide of the top-left corner.
Four minutes later, the Magpies moved in front, after Jeff Hughes capitalised on a bad back pass. Rather than taking on the shot himself, the midfielder squared for Zoko to power past Weale at close range.
Shrewsbury almost levelled immediately but Bialkowski made a brave block at the feet of Morgan. Substitute Asa Hall looked set to find the net with a rebound, only Leacock was at hand with a strong challenge.
On 61, the visitors did find their equaliser, following a foul on Morgan by Leacock inside the area. Richards shouldered the responsibility of the spotkick and placed into the bottom-left corner, sending Bialkowski the wrong way.
The home fans and players felt that the penalty was harsh and the Shrews' second goal did little to soften the blow. Full-back Grandison managed to glide into the box, skipping past multiple challenges en route, and slid the ball into the bottom-right corner.
No heads dropped in the County ranks and on 65, they drew level. Arquin's cross from the left saw Julian Kelly force an error by Darren Jones, whose backward header allowed Jeff Hughes to nod home his first goal of the campaign.
The pace was upped and Judge thought that he had made it 3-2, when his right-wing free-kick nearly found its way into the far corner. The Irishman later delivered an in-swinging set-play from the opposite flank and Neal Bishop would have found the corner with a glanced header had Weale not directed the ball around the post.
Lee Hughes' late introduction lifted the Meadow Lane crowd and the place almost erupted when he found the net in the 87th minute. The finish was made possible by Arquin, who tore past Grandison on the left wing and delivered a low centre that the striker controlled and prodded over the line on the turn.
The Magpies now face a trip to Oldham, where they will be looking to hold on to top spot. Another positive result could also see the team match a club record of 10 games unbeaten on the road.
Attendance: 6,774 (including 734 away supporters)
Watch match highlights and post-match reaction on Magpie Player.