Chelmsford City 1 Ebbsfleet United 2
Two goals in six minutes saw Ebbsfleet come from behind to win at Chelmsford on Monday night.
Steve Brown's side trailed to a Robert Edmans goal at half-time but Stevenage loanee Michael Thalassitis produced a piece of Football League quality to level the scores.
A deflected Daryl McMahon free-kick settled the contest and Chelmsford skipper Mark Hughes was then dismissed for violent conduct.
The sending-off took the remaining wind out of City's sails and Ebbsfleet could have won by a greater margin in the end.
Anthony Acheampong made his Fleet debut, replacing the injured Paul Lorraine in central defence, while Thalassitis came in for Ben May up front in the only other change from the 1-1 draw with Weston-super-Mare.
McMahon had a early free-kick deflect behind and from his corner, Thalassitis headed over.
But the home side had a period of concerted pressure at the other end and Matthew Lock's corner sailed all the way through the box, only for Edmans to miss his kick at the far post.
Billy Bricknell saw a shot pushed round the near post by Clarets keeper Carl Pentney, before Acheampong got up well to head an Anthony Cook corner over.
But it was Chelmsford who took the lead on 26 minutes. Lock's brilliant shot flew over Preston Edwards in the Fleet goal, hit the crossbar and came back out. As the ball bounced back up off the turf, Edmans craned his neck and nodded it home.
Ebbsfleet tried to respond. Thalassitis whipped in a shot from the angle of the box which bounced in front of Pentney, the goalkeeper spilling the first effort but recovering to gather at the second attempt.
Edmans had the ball in the net for a second time but his excellent half-volley counted for nothing because the assistant had already flagged for offside.
Then came a mad 60 seconds when both sides wasted golden opportunities.
For Ebbsfleet, Cook's whipped free-kick came back off the post and Bricknell's follow-up strike was blocked on the line. But the ball ran loose and Dean Rance had a free shot from six yards out, only for Christian Smith to make another superb goal-line clearance.
The visitors, from almost being level, then very nearly self-destructed. A suicidal pass across the Fleet box was intercepted by Aaron Greene, who strolled through one-on-one with Edwards. But the keeper stood tall and managed to save when Greene should really have doubled Chelmsford's advantage. It would prove to be the key moment of the match.
Lock curled a free-kick over as the Clarets finished the half on top.
Ebbsfleet managed to press them back at the start of the second and Pentney produced a spectacular save to claw Cook's 20-yard curler out of the top corner.
When the home side managed to break their shackles and get out of defence, they were allowed to progress 70 yards almost unchallenged. The move finished with Edwards saving Greene's shot low to his right.
Chris Sessegnon was caught out of position and Leon Redwood lashed a shot over.
But then, with Ebbsfleet starting to turn the tide, came the equaliser on 62 minutes. Rance's cross from the left was chested down by Alex Osborn into the path of Thalassitis, who rifled a majestic shot into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
That breathed confidence into the visitors, for whom Bricknell had a powerful shot well held by Pentney moments later.
The Fleet had their tails up and then they went a goal up. McMahon's free-kick from the right-hand side fizzed through the box and nestled in the far corner with the aid of a deflection, although the stand-in skipper wheeled away, claiming the goal.
Back came City and Edwards made a vital save to deny Greene, before Acheampong's attempted headed clearance dropped to Hughes, who crunched a volley just wide.
That was to be the Chelmsford captain's last positive contribution, though. Hughes appeared to kick Thalassitis while he was on the floor and the incident, which happened right in front of the Ebbsfleet bench, sparked a brawl as players from both sides piled in. After consulting with both his assistants, referee Lloyd Wood showed Hughes a straight red card.
When play restarted, Acheampong's header from a McMahon corner was scrambled behind and Cook then tricked his way past two defenders before drawing a smart save from Pentney.
Acheampong, a real handful in the opposition box, got his head to another set-piece and substitute May turned inside the six-yard box but Pentney stood tall to save his hooked shot.
The home side threw men forward in the dying stages and Ebbsfleet almost caught them on the counter-attack. May picked out fellow sub Michael West but his shot lacked power and Pentney fell on the ball.
But there was still time, in the dying embers, for City to fashion a late chance. Lock's fierce shot was beaten out by Edwards and substitute Joe Ward headed the rebound over.
Chelmsford: Pentney, Long, Redwood, Lock, Haines, Smith, Greene, Hughes, St Aimie (Miller 80mins), Edmans (Cheek 67mins), Davis (Ward 72mins). Subs not used: Nicolau, Forecast.
Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Sessegnon (Howe 80mins), Acheampong, Sankofa, Palmer, Osborn (West 87mins), McMahon, Rance, Cook, Thalassitis, Bricknell (May 70mins). Subs not used: Corcoran, Hall.
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