BATTERED, patched-up and numerically disadvantaged they may have been, but Redcar Bears produced a performance made of solid Teesside steel to see off their derby day rivals.
Weakened by having to use rider replacement for the absent Mark Lemon, the Ecco Finishing Bears suffered a further blow when Jan Graversen was ruled out after being stuffed into the Rye House fence the previous night.
Lewis Blackbird looked like he was going to be a more than useful replacement after storming from last to first in his opening race.
But his night came to a sudden and painful end in his very next outing when he fell heavily after shedding a chain.
He left the track in an ambulance and was then taken to hospital as a precaution, leaving the Bears with just five riders and the daunting prospect of having to field just one man in two of their subsequent races,
But, having been behind early on, they not only got their noses in front and consolidated their lead but built it up.
They were eight points up and one stage and though the Diamonds staged a late rally to level it up at 36-36 with three races left, the Bears pulled away in the final straight to complete a memorable win.
The Diamonds’ fightback came in the form of a 5-1 and a pair of 4-2s in successive heats, the second of them coming as Newcastle guest Rene Bach passed Bears skipper Aaron Summers in the battle of the unbeaten riders.
But Summers gained his revenge as he and Richard Lawson gave a textbook display of team-riding to keep him at bay in heat 13 and re-establish the home side’s lead at 41-37.
Konopka slammed into the fence as he went on the offensive next time out – in his seventh race of a busy night – and was excluded from the rerun and Carl Wilkinson was outgated at the second time of asking. But Wilkinson is entertainment and determination personified and surged up the inside of Lewis Rose and Chris Mills before switching to the outside.
Rose almost had him on the last lap but Wilkinson dug deep, came back and clinched a valuable win.
That meant that, barring the unlikely event of neither of their riders finishing the final race, the Bears were guaranteed at least a draw and still had the chance of talking all three Premier League points.
Bach found a way past leader Lawson on the final lap but on a night when the Bears showed team spirit, focus and true grit in abundance, the Team GB man fought back and pipped the Dane in the line.
With Stuart Robson third and Summers at the back it meant the Diamonds took a point but the Bears’ victory was very much against the odds given their weakened state and thoroughly deserved.
Hugh Skidmore was voted rider of the night after winning three times and top scoring with paid 13 points.
BEARS: Hugh Skidmore 12+1, Richard Lawson 11+1, Aaron Summers 11, Carl Wilkinson 8, Lewis Blackbird 3 (w/d), Rafal Konopka 2, R/R for Mark Lemon.
DIAMONDS: Rene Bach 12, Stuart Robson 9+2, Lewis Rose 8+1, Ludvig Lindgren 7, Chris Mills 4+1, Simon Nielsen 3+2, R/R for Lewis Kerr.
IT was also a good night for Bears veteran Mark Lemon.
He missed the match as he is also team manager of Australia, who were in Bydgoszcz, Poland, for the World Cup race-off.
And Lemon’s charges stormed into Saturday’s final, scoring 43 points to finish ahead of Sweden (32pts), USA (26pts) and the Czech Republic (24pts).
They now battle hosts Poland, Great Britain and Denmark for the title on Saturday night.