THIS was an absorbing contest if only because there were doubts throughout about the eventual outcome, and in truth it could have gone either way.
Despite an early injury to winger Tom Ball, the Vale opened the scoring in the fifth minute.
The forwards served notice with a charge for the line, Danny Lin dived over and Tom Carter added the conversion while a vociferous East Terrace debated whether a try or penalty had been awarded.
Eventuality the scoreboard caught up and there was more work for the operator to perform in the 10th minute when the Vale pack summoned up another try.
A penalty was lofted into touch and from the line-out, the pugnacious James Hesketh was hustled over for an unconverted try.
Gradually Wilmslow came into the game and when the Vale were lured offside, stand-off Bob MacCallum kicked a penalty goal.
Vale were forced to defend but their forwards came up trumps when they drove Wilmslow back from a dangerous looking surge from five metres.
As a desultory half drew to a close Macluskie was shown a yellow card but MacCallum’s confident kick slid by the left hand post.
Being a player down did not cause the Vale to crawl into their shell as a break out from deep in his own half by Carter, who linked with Lin and Garnett down the right underlined.
In the first minute of injury time Vale’s pack again cranked up the volume on a familiar theme.
From a close range line-out Sam Wallbank hit the right notes for his third try in successive games but Wilmslow came back with a well worked try.
The danger signs appeared when Ben Charnley was forced to pull off a try saving tackle on winger Tom Rayner, but the force was with Wilmslow and in the seventh minute of injury time a stretched Vale defence was unable to prevent wing forward, Hugo Corbett, scoring an unconverted try wide out.
A solo 60 metre run from Darren Wilson at the start of the second half suggested that the Vale were going to break the mould but in the 42nd minute their lead was reduced to a couple of points.
Rayner scored wide out on the left after the visitors had caught the Vale ball watching which left their right flank thinly protected.
MacCallum converted with the sweetest of kicks and suddenly memories of November 5 came flooding back when the Vale had meekly surrendered their half-time lead on that occasion.
Everything changed in they 50th minute when the forwards once more took matters into their own hands by driving their opposite numbers over their line for Ben Charnley to collect his first senior try in his 12th game.
But Wilmslow applied the pressure and were rewarded with a successful MacCallum penalty in the 61st minute to bring themselves back into contention.
In the 64th minute the three-quarters at last broke the pack’s hegemony when Macluskie scored a try.
Jimmy Moore wafted the ball downfield, James Hodder gave chase and although the visitors’ full-back collected the ball he also had to contend with the waspish Hodder, who produced an unorthodox tackle.
As the ball went free Hodder flipped a pass to Macluskie, who bounded over for a try and a bonus point.
Carter’s kick, which looked on target, thwacked against the crossbar but failed to go over.
The drama continued in the 70th minute, MacCallum kicked a penalty and Andy Powers was shown a yellow card.
Two minutes later Phil Berry joined him in the sin-bin but a penalty from Carter with three minutes remaining put the Vale two scores ahead.
Vale of Lune: T Carter, J Hodder, A Macluskie, A Powers, T Ball (L Acton 4), J Moore, D Wilson (capt), J Hesketh, P Berry, A Cowey (M Hanson 48), D Perry, S Wallbank, A Garnett, D Lin (P Watson 80), B Charnley.
Man of the Match: Dan Perry.
Match Sponsors: Burton and Fischer Financial Services, Ellison AC Packaged Plant Solutions.
Match ball sponsor: Friends of the Vale.