Colin Cramb’s sensational injury-time winner brought to an end a run of three consecutive defeats and put Shire back into the play-off places.
After David Dunn and Andy Rodgers had given Shire a 2-0 interval lead, Forfar took advantage of some poor home defending to draw themselves level, scoring their equaliser with just three minutes left.
They must have bargained that would have been enough to gain them a valuable share of the points, but they reckoned without Cramb’s 30 yard free-kick which flew into the net off the bar for the winner.
Shire boss Jim McInally was forced into two changes from the team which lost to Dundee United in the Scottish Cup. Eddie Forrest was suspended and Colin Cramb was carrying an injury which meant the introduction of Sean Anderson and Dean Richardsn who were both substitutes in the cup-tie.
There were organisational changes too, with Andy Rodgers coming off his wing role to partner Brian Graham in a two-pronged attack. Craig Tully was taken off his normal defensive midfield beat to partner Michael Bolochoweckyj at the centre of the back four.
Dick Campbell’s Forfar Athletic side contained a couple of familiar faces to Shire fans. Kevin Gordon, always a fans’ favourite in his time at Firs Park, was in the Loons’ starting eleven while Sean Simpson was on the substitutes’ bench.
It was Gordon who got the game’s first sniff of goal after four minutes. Ross Campbell glided past a poor challenge from Bolocjoweckyj and floated the all over the defence to Gordon who was clean through on goal but was halted in his tracks by the stand side linesman’s offside flag.
Forfar had by far the better of the opening exchanges and wasted a great chance to open the scoring after seven minutes when Campbell flicked the ball over the static Shire defence for Craig Winter who took it into the box before shooting across Mark Peat’s goal and just wide of the far post.
Shire tried to come back into the game but they best they could manage in the early stages was a Rodgers half volley which went well wide of target. The home side were under the cosh a bit but it didn’t stop them taking the lead after 18 minutes.
Craig Donaldson was fouled 20 yards from goal and David Dunn hit the resulting free-kick high into the top left-hand corner of Ally Brown’s net. Forfar hardly had time to recover from that blow before they found themselves two goals behind.
Brian Graham took the ball wide right and hit a cross to the back post for Richardson who headed over the defence and the stranded keeper for Rodgers to shoot home.
The Loons kept going despite the setback and a mistake by Bolochoweckyj let Gordon in behind the defence but debutant Peat raced from his line to thwart any danger by diving bravely at the Forfar forward’s feet.
On the half hour mark Gordon provided Forfar their next opportunity, making good progress down the right and cut it back for Lilley who cleverly dummied it for Darren Brady whose 25 yard shot was fierce but just wide of Peat’s right-hand post.
Shire weren’t making much headway towards Brown’s goal but Anderson’s mazy run after 37 minutes ended with a shot from the edge of the box that stung the palms of the Forfar keeper’s hands.
The second half started with a bad foul on Rodgers by Elliot Smith but the resulting free-kick only brought a cross from Donaldson which was gratefully grasped by Brown at his near post.
Three minutes later a decent break down the left by Graham carried promise but came to nothing after Anderson mis-placed his pass wide to Rodgers. Rodgers was played clean through with only Brown to beat not long after but the linesman, correctly, flagged because Graham was offside.
After 55 minutes Rodgers’ crossfield pass found Richardson lurking unmarked. His shot was well-hit but went across the face of goal and just wide at the far post.
Forfar missed a great chance to get themselves back into the match after 58 minutes when Gordon fed Campbell inside the box but the visiting striker shot wide after the net after good work by Peat to put him off.
But the visitors did eventually get themselves back into the match on 68 minutes when some poor Shire defending let Martin Fotheringham in at the near post and he beat Peat with a low shot.
Shire brought on Cramb in place of Graham and the veteran striker quickly got in behind the home defence and even round the goalkeeper but his shot was blocked by the experienced Andy Tod.
Shire had the driving wind and rain in their faces but with Marc McKenzie chasing there was almost a chance of a breakaway. That opportunity presented itself on 84 minutes when Squib raced clear on goal only to be crudely brought to the ground by the last Forfar defender, Stephen Tulloch. Amazingly, neither referee or linesman brought play to a stop and the game raged on.
That had an impact on 87 minutes when Forfar won a free-kick in central midfield. The ball was whipped in and Tulloch got in just fractionally before Peat to send the slightest of headers into the back of the net.
But Shire never gave up hope of winning the match, even in injury time. McKenzie was fouled by Darren Brady 30 yards from goal and Cramb stepped up, struck the free-kick with the minimum of backlift, high into the net off the underside of the bar for a sensational winner.
SHIRE : Peat, Hay, Dunn, Donaldson, Bolochoweckyj, Tully, Anderson(McKenzie 76), Ure, Graham(Cramb 65), Richardson, Rodgers(Kelly 82).
FORFAR ATHLETIC : Brown, Donnachie, Smith, Winter(Simpson 71), Tod, Tulloch, Gordon, Brady, Lilley(Manson 80), Campbell(Kilgannon 71), Fotheringham.
REFREE : T. Robertson
ATTENDANCE : 405.