An amazing second half saw eight-man Peterhead knocked from their perch at the top of Division Three by Elgin City, with ex-Blue Toon man Daniel Moore netting twice from the penalty spot.
Referee Gavin Ross was at the heart of the action, with his decision to hand Steven Noble a second yellow card sparking particular outrage among the Blue Toon camp.
On the back of picking up the Irn Bru Phenomenal Manager of the Month award in midweek, Jim McInally made one change, Martin Bavidge making his first league start of the season in place of Robbie Winters, who dropped to the bench.
Elgin’s minds were still affected by the horror road crash that left six of their players requiring hospital treatment, with one, Chris Tucker, still in a critical condition in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
They too made one change, with Stuart Leslie replacing Paul McMullan, but there was a also a tactical shift as they matched up with Peterhead’s 3-5-2 shape.
The two sides cancelled each other out for much of the first half but, as ever, Peterhead’s top scorer Rory McAllister was looking lively.
He had the first effort of the game, a bicycle kick from ten yards drifting wide of the upright, just minutes before he turned provider for Scott McLaughlin, who was denied by a timely challenge at the near post.
Callum Macdonald, at the other end, also put in a timely challenge to deny Leslie a shot at goal from the edge of the area, before a period of Peterhead pressure ended with McAllister snatching at a left-foot volley, which flew wide of the target.
Ten minutes from the break, a mistimed challenge from Macdonald allowed Craig Gunn to hit a 30-yard free-kick towards goal but Marc McCallum, who had retained his place in the Peterhead goal after replacing Paul Jarvie against Montrose, got down to turn the strike round the post.
The first yellow card came when Ross brought down Gunn after 38 minutes, and Gunn followed the former Aberdeen man into the book a minute later for afters as the pair clashed again on Elgin’s next attack.
It was after the interval that things began to descend into chaos. First, Graeme Sharp was forced off through injury, to be replaced by Ross Smith.
Seven minutes later, club captain Macdonald followed Sharp off the pitch after becoming the first of three men to be sent off. Leslie had burst into the area and went down under the Peterhead man’s challenge.
Referee Ross, in his first season as a ‘Category One Development Referee’, deemed Macdonald to have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity, and showed the red card.
Moore stepped up to net the penalty, but having stopped twice during his run-up, was ordered to re-take the spot kick and shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour. At the second attempt, he sent McCallum the wrong way from the spot.
And it was 2-0 eight minutes later. Substitute Smith bundled over Dennis Wyness in the area, and Moore stroked home for his second goal of the afternoon.
Things went from bad to worse when Steven Noble, earlier booked for a foul, was adjudged to have dived under the challenge of Jamie Duff. It was a clear foul by the Elgin man, but referee Ross had by now lost the plot and sent the former Stranraer man packing.
He wasn’t finished there though, and when Scott Ross clashed with Leslie off the ball in the final minute, the red card was shown for the third time.
There could be no arguments about the final red card, and Ross is sure to face sanctions from his manager for kicking out at the Elgin man.
Peterhead are left in a tricky position ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Annan, however, with three defenders suspended and a fourth potentially unavailable through injury.
Beforehand, they will face Aberdeen in the Martin Bavidge Testimonial match tonight (Tuesday), and manager Jim McInally may well use the occasion to try out some of his defensive options.
PETERHEAD: McCallum, Sharp (Smith, 51), Noble, Ross, Macdonald, Cowie, Strachan, Redman, McAllister (McBain, 75), Bavidge (Maguire, 61), McLaughlin. Subs (not used): Winter, Jarvie (gk).