Nottingham Forest 2 Ipswich Town 1
WHEN it comes to dressing-room favourites Pierre van Hooijdonk is unlikely to win many awards because of his apparently abrasive manner, but when it comes to winning football matches few team-mates would deny they like having the Dutchman around.
The tall striker took Forest within touching distance of a Premiership place with two moments of brilliance in a game that seemed to be increasingly going Ipswich's way.
George Burley's side had taken a 47th-minute lead through James Scowcroft when van Hooijdonk sprung to life with a trademark free-kick from distance.
Few players strike a ball as well as van Hooijdonk and giving away free-kicks within 35 yards of goal is asking for trouble.
So it proved when Jason Cundy ended his squabble for the ball with Kevin Campbell by hauling him down.
The Dutchman looked at the ball from three different angles like a painter studying a masterpiece before letting fly with a dipping drive that Richard Wright did remarkably well to save.
But the goalkeeper, who looks destined to be a future England starter, could only watch agonisingly from a prone position as defender Colin Cooper followed up to tap home the rebound.
Five minutes later, van Hooijdonk took centre stage by firing home a majestic winner that oozed the class he hopes will earn him a place in Holland's side in this summer's World Cup.
Holding off a challenge from the impressive Jamie Clapham, he darted on to Steve Stone's through-ball and waited long enough for Wright to feel he had to commit himself before expertly lifting the ball over the diving goalkeeper.
It was a strike that later left his manager, Dave Bassett, admitting he can live with the Dutchman's foibles as long as the goals keep going in. Bassett said: "There is no point asking him to run after things he doesn't want to because he won't do it.
"But if players have the ability to pull games out of the fire you go along with it. The boys don't mind because they are happy if he scores goals like that."
The double blow failed to knock the wind out of Ipswich's sails and, with a 16-match unbeaten record to protect, they hammered at Forest's solid defence as the game reached a thrilling climax.
Substitute Gus Uhlenbeek was guilty of wasting the best opportunity by failing to make a proper contact on Matt Holland's cross allowing Forest goalkeeper Dave Beasant to kick clear from a seated position.
It then took a goal-line clearance from Steve Chettle to deny Alex Mathie in the dying seconds. Forest, for their part, had the chance to increase their lead in the final quarter and only blocks by Clapham and Mick Stockwell kept the ball out from shots in quick succession by Steve Stone and Scott Gemmill.
It finally rebounded to Kevin Campbell, who found the net only to be ruled offside.