Published: 16:45, 07 May 2017
Ebbsfleet reached the National League South play-off final with a dramatic win over Hampton & Richmond on Sunday.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg, Fleet doubled their aggregate lead through Kenny Clark but were pegged back when substitute Jerome Federico scored on 60 minutes to make it 3-2 overall.
The home side survived a few scares but Darren McQueen's late goal started the celebrations and sent Ebbsfleet through to their third final in four years, this one against Chelmsford City at Stonebridge Road on Saturday.
Ebbsfleet were unchanged from the first leg, meaning Dean Rance kept his place in central midfield. McQueen and Danny Kedwell, with 31 goals between them this season, started on the bench with Aaron McLean again operating as a lone striker.
The injured Harold Odametey missed out for Hampton while Duncan Culley, who scored the Beavers' goal on Wednesday, failed a pre-match fitness test. In came Joe Hicks and Croatia youth international Stiven Rivic.
Former Dartford player Nathan Collier led the Hampton attack although he barely touched the ball during a first half in which the visitors were happy to sit deep.
Fleet went close on 12 minutes. Dave Winfield played into Sam Deering's feet and his clever flick sent Marvin McCoy haring down the right. McCoy crossed low for McLean and his first-time effort flashed past the near post.
The lively Deering saw a shot deflect behind for a corner and ex-Fleet winger Brendan Kiernan was then lucky to escape sanction for a bad challenge on McCoy. Kiernan looked over his shoulder as both players prepared to jump for a header and clearly caught McCoy with his elbow in front of the dugouts. Referee Alan Dale blew for a foul but took no further action.
Tackles started to fly in after that and Winfield needed to be alert to block a Kiernan shot after he'd cut inside from the left, past Deering.
McLean missed a good chance for Fleet just before the half-hour, blazing over the bar from close-range after the Beavers had failed to deal with another McCoy cross.
Collier headed wide on the stretch as Hampton fashioned their first half-chance but it was Fleet who made the crucial breakthrough 10 minutes before half-time.
Christian Jolley was booked for bringing down Anthony Cook and from the resulting free-kick, floated over by Jack Powell, the visitors made the mistake of leaving McLean unmarked. He rose well and nodded the ball back across goal, from where Clark scored with a looping header which crept inside the far post just before Andy Drury could get a touch.
Deering volleyed over before Hampton were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Kiernan took it and his curling effort was creeping inside the top corner until Nathan Ashmore dived high to his right and clawed the ball out.
Hampton, in desperate need of a spark, made a double substitution at half-time but Fleet went close to doubling their lead soon after the restart. Winfield got up well to meet a Powell free-kick from the right but his header was straight at Sam Howes in the Beavers goal.
Centre-halves Clark and Winfield then combined to thwart Kiernan just as it looked to be opening up for Hampton.
Powell curled a shot wide for Ebbsfleet and Howes then got down well to save from Deering.
But nerves spread around Stonebridge Road when Hampton scored on the hour. They broke at pace through Federico, who managed to squeeze a shot past Ashmore at his near post.
Rance and Drury both had their names taken and boss Daryl McMahon sent on McQueen and Kedwell in an attempt to relieve the mounting pressure on Ebbsfleet's goal.
Culley fired a shot over with five minutes left as the home fans continued to bite their nails.
But after Kedwell had been denied by a super Howes block, McQueen fired Fleet into the final a minute from time, showing remarkable composure to lift the ball over Howe from just inside the box.
Ebbsfleet: Ashmore, Cook (Shields 90mins), Connors, McCoy, Winfield, Clark, Powell (Kedwell 76mins), Drury, McLean (McQueen 68mins), Rance, Deering. Subs not used: Mambo, Miles.
Hampton & Richmond: Howes, Kamara, Casey, Collier, Murphy, Hicks, Kiernan, Solomon (Culley 82mins), Rivic (Federico 46mins), Jolley, Jelley (Hippolyte-Patrick 46mins). Subs not used: Gallagher, Bishop.
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