THIS pulsating game was never going to end with a whimper and the 90th minute equaliser by Salford was faintly inevitable, if slightly against the run of play.
Paul Moore had the luxury of naming an unchanged side for the first time in months and Daley Woods took on the mantle of lone striker for a second week.
The first 10 minutes saw both sides testing the other with neat attacking play, before the game burst into life with Woods springing the off-side trap, and with the keeper inexplicably retreating, he snatched at his shot and the chance was gone.
The Clitheroe midfield was starting to exert its authority and on 15 minutes Woods again broke forward, but turned sideways rather than advance on goal.
Further home chances came and went as shots were scuffed from good positions, but Salford fired a warning shot across the bows when a mis-hit cross skimmed the home bar on 24 minutes.
A minute later Danny Mahoney unpicked the away defence and Dean Canning saw his shot saved, before the play switched to the other end and a whipped in cross skimmed the bar again.
On 30 minutes, the inevitable happened, and a through ball from Mahoney saw Woods burst free, and this time he thumped the ball home.
And yet one minute later, only a full-length sliding tackle by Jack Higgins stopped a Salford striker from pulling the trigger.
Woods had another shot blasted over before on 38 minutes an inexplicable mix up between the Salford left back and centre back saw Woods wriggle free and score his second goal of the game.
A two-goal cushion would have been perfect for Clitheroe, but as the clock ticked down it was Higgins’s turn to do an air shot on the edge of the box and McDonald struck it home to halve the deficit.
It was almost impossible that the second half could have as much incident, but it didn’t disappoint.
Salford crashed a shot against the bar on 47 minutes.
Bursts down the flanks from Lee Pugh and Chris Dykes and a smattering of yellow cards as fatigue set in didn’t spoil the entertainment factor.
Substitute Isaac Kusaloka was put through on 75 minutes but scuffed his shot, and Canning couldn’t finish off his own lung-busting 50-yard run five minutes later.
Colliding defenders almost let in Salford on 80 minutes, but three minutes later Kusaloka couldn’t quite get the ball from under his feet as he wriggled in the box.
The drama was sustained right till the end when a clean, towering header from Pugh on the edge of the Clitheroe box saw a foul awarded against him.
A wall was formed but there was a suspicion that it moved slightly as the ball arrowed to the bottom right hand corner, again courtesy of McDonald.
The boos that rang out at the end for the free kick decision were quickly replaced by sustained applause for a tremendous game of football.
Clitheroe: Burton, Smalley, Pugh, James, Higgins, Birchall, Nangle, Mahoney Canning, Woods, Dykes. Subs: Calvert, Mason, Dent, Kusaloka, Devenney.
Salford City: Branagan, Welsh, King, Heald, Lane, Walters, Taylor, White, Rother, McDonald, McGrath
Subs Crooks, Brody, Fitton, Monaghan, Ormesher.