FROM despair to joy in the blink of an eye, endings don't get much more implausible than that savoured by a nation focusing its gaze on Old Trafford on Saturday.

But just a few hours earlier, the die-hards at Bootham Crescent had suffered something even more outlandish than David Beckham's final fling of his white boots.

Graham Potter, who has already assured himself a place in Bootham Crescent folklore with his unforgettable last-gasp strike at Torquay that sealed City's Division Three status last season, looked to have done it again.

His low drive saw the ball nestle in the corner of the Exeter goal and City, 3-1 down on the stroke of full-time, had seemingly snatched a priceless point at the death.

But from despair to joy to despair again, City's rollercoaster ride of emotions, unlike England's, still had one more cruel twist to go.

In echoes of Clive Thomas in the 1978 World Cup and Mark Cooper at Hull City last season, referee Joe Ross ruled the goal out having already blown for full-time. It was the most marginal of decisions.

The whistle had clearly gone by the time Potter's rocket had crossed the line, but whether it had been blown as it left his boot was anyone's guess.

At least there's rarely a dull moment following City this season, but the furore over the ending should not overshadow some horrendous defensive lapses that cost City so dear.

It was certainly not the referee that lost City this game.

Their stomach for the fight when all seems lost cannot be denied. But that they found themselves 2-0 down when they did was nothing short of ludicrous.

For 30 minutes, City were so in control it was embarrassing and you could only feel pity for what looked a woeful Exeter team.

After Mike Basham's header flashed wide, a dipping, swirling Darren Edmondson shot was tipped over and a Lee Bullock prod was bundled off the line a goal seemed inevitable.

But what was looking a cake-walk suddenly turned into a catastrophe as Exeter scored with only their second foray into Minstermen territory and their first shot on target.

Alan Fettis's call to claim Jamie Campbell's lump forward was audible to everyone but Matt Hocking.

His hooked clearance was miscued straight to Sean McCarthy and with Hocking prostrate and Fettis stranded the former Bradford City striker cleverly lifted the ball over them both and in off the post.

The astonishment at Exeter's temerity to claim the lead had barely subsided when the Grecians doubled their advantage.

Basham pulled back the always dangerous Christian Roberts and was booked for his indiscretion.

Worse was to follow though, as from the resultant free-kick the ball was rolled to Roberts and the former Cardiff City striker unleashed a pin-point rocket that pierced the City wall.

Fettis could only admire as it flew past him.

It was an unbelievable turn around in fortunes, but if Exeter were somewhat fortunate to be in the lead they had more than enough chances to make sure of the win before the half-time whistle blew.

City, so assured for the first 30 minutes, were suddenly ragged, and it took a fine save from Fettis to deny Roberts a second on 43 minutes before the Exeter hitman pulled another promising chance just wide.

Needing a fight-back of Manchester United proportions, City got the start they needed to the second half.

Ten minutes in, a sweeping move involving Lee Nogan and Edmondson ended when Michael Proctor rolled the ball back for Lee Bullock to thump home from the edge of the area.

However, 15 minutes later and another defensive lapse - Hocking and Basham both failing to clear a hoof forward - put Roberts in the clear.

Cutting in from the right, he side-stepped Fettis and coolly passed the ball into an empty net.

With a mountain to climb again, City manager Terry Dolan made a triple substitution which almost reaped quick dividends only for Arjan Van Heusden to push Alex Mathie's point-blank effort on to the crossbar with a superb save.

Credit to City, who never gave up the ghost and on the stroke of full-time Mathie raised hopes of an improbable ending when he latched on to Potter's deflected shot and fired home.

Sure enough, the improbable ending did come but, for City and Potter in particular, referee Ross ensured it was more improbable than anyone could have imagined.

York City 2 Exeter City 3

York City Scorers: Bullock 55m, Mathie 90m

Fettis 6, Edmondson 7, Hocking 5 (Chris Smith 75m), Basham 5 (Salvati 75m), Maley 6, Cooper 6 (Mathie 75m), Brass 6, Bullock 6, Potter 6, Nogan 8, Proctor 8 Subs, not used: Howarth, Richardson Sent-off: None

Exeter City Scorers: McCarthy 32m, Roberts 34m, 70m

Exeter: Van Heusden, McConnell, Curran, Campbell, Power, Breslan, Barlow, Ampadu, Roscoe (Buckle 60m), McCarthy (Birch 80m), Roberts Subs, not used: Gregg, Watson, Tomlinson Bookings: McCarthy 66m (dissent) Sent-off: None

Attendance: 2,054

Ref: Joe Ross (Chingford)