Matthew Tipton scored twice as Ballymena United edged victory in a classic Boxing Day ‘derby’ at the Showgrounds.
The Sky Blues twice came from behind before Tipton’s late header settled an epic encounter in the home side’s favour as they made it back-to-back Boxing Day wins against their fiercest rivals.
United made a bright opening with Alan Teggart’s looping header from a Tony Kane cross dropping just past the far post.
Shane McGinty fired Coleraine’s first shot wide of the target before Tony Kane’s swerving 25-yard shot was unconvincingly palmed behind by Coleraine keeper Michael Doherty.
Kane was seeing plenty of the ball on United’s right flank and the defender sent over another teasing cross which Darren Boyce headed over at full stretch before the visitors took the lead against the run of play on 14 minutes.
Stuart Addis punched clear a cross which fell to Aaron Canning on the edge of the penalty area. The midfielder had two efforts at goal, the second of which deflected into the path of Gary Browne who beat Addis with a rising shot into the top corner from a tight angle.
The goal visibly rocked Ballymena and the visitors almost doubled their lead soon after when Joe McNeill collected an Ian Parkhill pass and turned sharply before curling a shot just wide of the far post.
Instead it was Ballymena who drew level on 23 minutes, from a corner which referee Colin Burns initially decided had been a goal kick after a Ballymena free kick had been headed behind by a defender.
The official eventually changed his mind and gave the corner and from Neal Gawley’s delivery, Darren Boyce’s looping header dropped in at the back post.
But the Bannsiders regained the lead on the half hour when Joe McNeill’s cross from the left defected of the head of a United defender and dropped neatly for Ian Parkhill to steer home a header.
As the second half began as a similarly frantic pace to the first and United levelled on 56 minutes.
Again it came from a deep Gawley corner which again found Boyce at the back post. The striker drilled a shot goalwards and strike partner Matthew Tipton was on hand to touch the ball home from close range.
And the pendulum swung in Ballymena’s favour as they took the lead on 64 minutes. After a neat inter-change, the ball was played to Alan Teggart on his left flank.
There looked to be little danger from his low cross but keeper Doherty inexplicably allowed the ball to slip through his grasp, presenting Allan Jenkins with an open net.
United came close to extending their lead on 78 minutes when Mark McCullagh’s header from another Gawley corner was cleared off the line and almost immediately, the visitors forced a corner which culminated with defender David Ogilby volleying home an equaliser.
But there was still time for another twist as Ballymena scored a fourth goal, again from a Gawley corner. This time his delivery was met by Mark McCullagh who headed it down into the ground but it bounced up nicely for Tipton to nod home from a couple of yards.
Ballymena United: Addis, T Kane, McCullagh, Munster, McBride, Gawley (sub McCaul 86), Surgenor, Jenkins, Teggart (sub Ruddy 89), Boyce (sub E Kane 90+3), Tipton. Subs (not used): Ferguson, Graham.
Coleraine: Doherty, Kane, Douglas, Ogilby, Mullan, McGinty (sub Miskimmin 75), Canning, McCafferty (sub Hegarty 64), McNeill, Browne (sub Lyons 86), Parkhill. Subs (not used): Watt, Moore.
Referee: Colin Burns (Newtownabbey).