Those who chose to stay at home and watch the Manchester derby missed out on a treat, as Ramsbottom United and Prescot Cables served up an eight-goal feast.
Despite the heavy conditions, both sides began the game at a pace that rarely eased up throughout the ninety minutes, and during that time the Rams hit a couple of land-marks.
Within the first minute Billy Priestley was unlucky to see his header clear the bar and other early efforts from Owen Roberts from 25 yards and debutant Steve Howson, who saw his shot deflected for a corner, set the tempo as the Rams looked to gain an early advantage.
As it was, that advantage went, against the run of play, to the visitors after 14 minutes.
A break down the left saw the ball pumped into the middle, and as the Rams’ defenders tried desperately to get back into position, Isaac Kusaloka found space to drill the ball home past another debutant, goalkeeper Martin Fearon from 15 yards.
Moments later Kusaloka almost doubled the lead when he dispossessed Danny Warrender as the defender ran across goal in an attempt to clear the danger, but this time he fired wide.
The game, though, was generally controlled by the Rams, and Howson had a header from a corner deflected for another, whilst an excellent move involving Roberts and Grant Spencer ended with Lee Gaskell hammering the ball inches wide of the post.
Howson, who was having a fine debut, twice saw his headers denied, one glancing wide with the other cleared off the line.
Prescot, although under a fair bit of pressure, looked dangerous themselves, and Kusaloka fired another opportunity wide as he broke into the box on the right hand side.
Ramsbottom’s superiority finally told in the 37th minute, and a landmark moment it was too.
Lee Gaskell raced on to a through ball in the inside-left channel and whipped the ball home from 15 yards to score his 100th goal for the club. A feat marked by the holding up of “100 GASKELL” posters by the supporters!
A minute later, Phil Dean’s clever flick and volley saw Richard Mottram in the Cables goal produce an excellent save, whilst the custodian had to be alert two minutes later to push away a fierce drive from Spencer.
On 43 minutes the Rams took the lead.
A fine run by Dean down the left saw him play the ball behind the defence to Howson who powered home a pile-driver from the edge of the area to notch his first Rammy goal.
There was still time, however, for Cables to draw level, as with the final play of the first half, Craig Haynes met the ball at the near post to head in off the upright.
The pace continued unabated in the second period, and a further four goals followed.
Gaskell saw his header saved by Mottram before Howson hooked over a Spencer free-kick.
Then came a bout of pressure from the Merseysiders. A terrific free-kick from Phil Howard shook the bar and rebounded back into play, then a speculative lob from outside the area almost caught out Fearon, but the stopper was able to tip the ball over the bar.
Against the run of play, the Rams then took the lead.
Again it was Gaskell, who met a Spencer cross from the left perfectly to plant a firm header home from 12 yards.
Gradually the home side regained the upper hand, and Dominic Smalley was unlucky to see his shot from a half-cleared corner sail inches over the bar.
On 73 minutes came the goal of the game as Gaskell completed his hat-trick in spectacular fashion. Joel Pilkington fired over a cross from the right, and Gaskell produced a magnificent overhead kick to slam the ball into the back of the net with Mottram rooted to the spot.
The next landmark arrived three minutes from time.
Jordan Hulme found space on the left side of the area, before turning and slotting home across the keeper and in at the far post. That was the 100th league goal of the campaign with seven games still remaining.
Prescot still found time to snatch a last minute consolation, as Howard fired home having been fed down the left, and it was no more than the visitors deserved for playing their part in what was a terrific advert for non-league football.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Fearon, Smalley, Roberts, Stopforth(Hulme 76mins), Warrender, Priestley, Spencer(Burton 69mins), Pilkington, Gaskell(Green 76mins), Howson, Dean. Sub not used: Toth