Wycombe Wanderers 3 ... Oxford United 1

WANDERERS equalled their best ever start to a season as they stretched their unbeaten run to six games with an extraordinary victory over local rivals Oxford United.

In front of the Sky television cameras they turned on the style early on but could not add to Andy Baird's third-minute opener until Jermaine McSporran doubled their money with nine minutes left - and that's when the drama really began.

Oxford pulled a goal back through Paul Tait and were then given six minutes of injury-time to try and claw back an equaliser.

But their hopes of saving it were dashed deep into stoppage time when Wanderers scored again with a controversial twice-taken penalty after Dannie Bulman's shirt was tugged.

The referee didn't see it but the linesman did, giving Wanderers, who had missed their previous two penalties through Steve Brown, a chance to make amends.

Chris Vinnicombe, winner of a training-ground penalty competition to replace Brown, took responsibility, but discovered that taking them in training is different to the real thing. His kick was easily saved by United's stand-in glovesman Hubert Busby on his debut.

But to everybody's amazement the kick was ordered to be re-taken, because Busby moved before the ball was struck, and this time Brown grabbed the ball.

He shut out the nightmare of his two previous misses and hammered it straight down the middle to restore Blues' two-goal cushion.

But the match should never have gone to the wire. In the first half Wanderers played their opponents off the park but didn't kill them off.

Within three minutes Wanderers were ahead. Brown's corner was headed forward by Jamie Bates and Baird swivelled to boot the ball over the line.

With Mo Harkin pulling the strings in midfield, Wanderers bamboozled struggling Oxford and only Richard Knight, in the visitors' goal, and some poor finishing kept the score down.

Knight dashed off his line to deny Baird a second and then sat on the ball as Jermanine McSporran tried to put it between his legs.

But even though Knight went off injured at half time, it was a different story in the second half.

Blues' new £75,000 striker Andy Rammell, who came on as a 50th minute substitute was starved of touches up front, as Oxford came out and put Wycombe on the back foot.

Defender Paul McCarthy produced a last-gasp tackle to deny Matt Murphy and then keeper Martin Taylor pulled off an outstanding save to stop Joey Beauchamp's piledriver.

It was against the run of play when Blues stretched their lead in the 81st minute. McSporran's pace took him clear of the defence and the former Oxford schoolboy and Oxford fan squeezed the ball between the keeper's legs.

That goal sparked a mass exodus among Oxford's fans but many came running back after hearing the cheer from the remaining supporters as Paul Tait's crisp drive halved the deficit on 85 minutes.

Their mood was improved even further when the assistant referee indicated that there would be six minutes of injury time - but then came the penalty drama.

Blues boss Lawrie Sanchez said: 'We made hard work of it in the end. We were excellent in the first half, probably the best we've played since I've been here, but we needed to score more goals than one.

'In the second half they changed their formation and stopped us doing what we had been doing. In the first half we had them on the ropes but in the second they chucked a few punches back.'