BRILLIANT Bognor beat second-placed Dulwich Hamlet with four goals in the final 24 minutes - including three in the final five minutes after going 2-1 down.
Sub Arron Hopkinson’s fine run and finish put Jamie Howell’s team ahead midway through the second half but the Rocks were brought down to earth when Dean Lodge scored two near-identical goals in five minutes to put Dulwich in front.
But Ben Johnson won and converted a penalty on 86 minutes and Craig Robson kept his head in a 90th-minute scramble in the box to poke past Phil Wilson and spark wild celebrations.
There was even time for Johnson to set up Terry Dodd for a fourth in five minutes of injury time.
The win means the Rocks’ league record since losing to Carshalton on August 20 (ironically they lost that game 4-2 after leading 2-1 late on) is nine wins, one draw and just one defeat. It moves them up to sixth place in the Ryman premier table, just five points behind leaders Maidstone.
Kick-off at Nyewood Lane was delayed until 3.10pm after Dulwich Hamlet encountered traffic jams on their way to the Sussex coast and arrived shortly after 2.30.
The Rocks went into the game on the back of eight wins and a draw from their past ten league games, but Dulwich Hamlet arrived in second place and the hosts knew this would be one of their toughest tests of the season to date.
A minute’s silence was held before the start to mark Remembrance Sunday and also the death this week of Sussex FA president Peter Bentley.
It was a fairly cagey start but it was the Rocks doing most of the attacking in the first five minutes. Robson, playing in midfield, was at the forefront of the Rocks’ moves forward but half-openings for Kane Wills and Ollie Pearce came to nothing.
For the visitors, Lodge looked to be in on home keepr Mark Zawadski but an offside flag put paid to his efforts.
Dodd tried his luck from well outside the area but he didn’t catch it cleanly and it was an easy take for Hamlet stopper Phil Wilson.
The Rocks were close to the opener on 11 minutes when James Crane found space to get into the box down the left and played a precise low ball into Pearce, who slid in to make connect but saw his shot go just outside the post.
The teams were largely cancelling each other out, with some nice passages of play but none ending in the threat of a goal.
There was a scare for the Rocks when Zawadski had to race out to a through-ball before Lodge reached it, and he was only just inside the box when he grabbed the ball.
Dulwich managed half-hearted appeals for a penalty when Lodge went down in the box on 23 minutes as he ran on to a pass by Xavier Vidal, but the ref was having none of it.
On 25 minutes, Ben Johnson’s floated far-post cross was only half-cleared and both Alex Malins and Doug Tuck followed up with shots but Dulwich cleared.
Dulwich were starting to have the better of it and had another penalty shout when they felt a cross by Kevin James struck an arm, but this was also waved away.
Johnson drew Wilson into a diving save with a well-driven shot from the corner of the box just after the half-hour mark. A minute later, Pearce played in Johnson but Wilson just got a hand to it as the winger tried to slide the ball past him as he ran into the area.
Johnson was getting ever closer and threw himself at a 35th-minute Pearce cross after Dodd’s pass - but Johnson couldn’t reach it and was offside anyway.
Five minutes before the break, Robson’s diving header from a Kane Wills corner was agonisingly wide of giving the utility man his fourth such goal this season.
There was a brief hold-up when Dulwich’s Nyren Clunis went down with a head injury.
Both sides made changes for the start of the second half. Arron Hopkinson replaced Doug Tuck - thought to have tweaked a hamstring - to give the Rocks a little more width, while Ian Daly was brought on for Dulwich in place of Marcel Henri-Francis.
Hopkinson made an immediate impression, beating his man down the left and whipping in a cross cleared by a Hamlet boot. A corner soon followed and Dulwich needed two attempts to clear the danger.
At the other end, Louis John was almost punished for taking too long on the ball when Dulwich dispossessed him and worked it to Clunis, whose low shot from ten yards was deflected for a corner.
Dulwich were doing most of the attacking in the first ten minutes of the second half. The Rocks were defending well but were struggling to get out of their own half.
A second Rocks change saw Scott Chamberlain come on for John, with Robson dropping back into defence.
A charge down the right by Pearce seemed to be stopped by a foul but no free-kick was given - but then the Rocks did win a free-kick when the same player was brought down, though Hamlet dealt with it.
Out of nothing, the Rocks took a 66th-minute lead. Bognor won the ball by breaking down a Dulwich attack and broke quickly. Wills played a lovely ball out to Hopkinson on the right and he sped away from the defence, drew Wilson and lashed a perfect shot past him high into the net.
Hopkinson almost turned provider two minutes later with a curling left-footed cross into the six-yard box which Dodd only just failed to connect with and Wilson gathered low down.
Dulwich were close to an equaliser on 70 minutes when Lodge beat Zawadski to a through-ball only to see his effort trickle wide.
Then Dulwich did equalise: another attack down their left put Lodge in on Zawadski and his delicate lob over the keeper was strong enough to evade two defenders chasing back and go in.
Dulwich then brought on Kershaney Samuels for Ahmed Deen. The visitors were on the front foot and another dangerous attack spearheaded by Peter Adenyi ended with an offside flag.
The hosts’ final change brought Dan Sackman on for Pearce. But the change couldn’t stem the Hamlet tide and Lodge sent one header over the bar from a good position before dancing through and giving his side a 76th-minute leader with an almost carbon-copy of his first goal, a cool finish past Zawadski.
A superb left-wing cross by Johnson on 81 minutes was met by Dodd but his header was high and wide as the Rocks looked to salvage something.
There was drama in the 86th minute when the Rocks levelled from the spot. Johnson was fouled as he tried to slide in to meet Hopkinson’s low ball in from the right and the ref pointed to the spot.
Mathieu Boyer was sent off for the challenge and after Dulwich protested in vain about the spot-kick, but Johnson smashed home the penalty.
Incredibly Bognor took the lead in the 90th minute. Dulwich were defending desperately to keep out the resurgent Rocks but after a long-range shot was blocked, the ball fell to Robson, who poked it past Wilson and just inside the post to spark wild celebrations.
And the Rocks weren’t finished there. In injury time, Johnson got forward again as the Rocks took advantage of Dulwich sending men forward, and his cross to the far post was volleyed back past the keeper by Dodd.
Players and fans could barely believe what they’d seen and celebrated at the end almost as enthusiastically as when beating the same opposition in the play-off final in 2012.
Rocks: Zawadski, Malins, Crane, Tuck (Hopkinson), Axten, John (Chamberlain), Robson, Wills, Dodd, Johnson, Pearce (Sackman). Subs not used: Godfrey, Weir.
Dulwich: Wilson, Boyer, Deen (Samuels), Vidal, Adenyi, Gonsalves, Clunis, James, Henri-Francis (Daly), Oztumer, Lodge. Subs: Walker, Pinnock, Mansaray.
Ref: Graham Kane (Brighton)