Before Saturday's final game of the Third Division season Carlisle, who briefly led the old First Division 25 years ago, were at the very bottom of the Nationwide League. The catastrophe of relegation to the Conference loomed unless they could gain a better result than Scarborough, the only other team in danger of the drop.
Scarborough could only draw at home to Peterborough, and as the match at the McCain Stadium finished with about 10 minutes still to play at Brunton Park, the Carlisle fans knew that their team had to beat Plymouth to stay up.
As the game reached the 90th minute and the fourth official decreed that four minutes of injury time would be added, the score was 1-1. Lee Phillips had put Plymouth ahead with a well-taken first League goal and Carlisle had equalised with a long-range shot from their captain, David Brightwell. Argyle were keeping possession and the desperate home side looked as though they would need a miracle to conjure a winner. That was what they got.
With the referee, Frazer Stretton, looking at his watch, Carlisle won a corner. Graham Anthony's well-flighted kick found Scott Dobie at the near post. The forward's header was on target but James Dungey, the Plymouth keeper, clawed it out - only as far as Glass, who gleefully drove the ball into the net for the most dramatic and crucial winning goal in the Cumbrian club's 71-year Football League history.
"My first thought after I scored," a drained Glass said after the game, "was: `Oh my God, I'm about to get 2,000 people on top of me.' Then someone whacked me in the face and I got a nose bleed." He was mobbed by not just his team-mates but by hordes of ecstatic fans who rushed on to the pitch. As soon as they were back in the stands and Plymouth kicked off again, Stretton blew for full-time. Carlisle were safe - just.
"Football is a game of highs and lows," Nigel Pearson, Carlisle's director of football, said, "and that was the highest high I've ever experienced." Amazingly, three weeks ago the former Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough defender had never heard of Glass.
With one keeper sold on transfer deadline day and another injured, Carlisle were relying on Richard Knight, on loan from Derby, to wear the No 1 shirt. Then he was recalled by the Rams and Pearson had a problem: three games to play and no goalie.
Jimmy Quinn, the Swindon manager, came to the rescue by contacting Pearson and offering the services of Glass, who once had his kit sponsored for a season by Specsavers. The loan transfer was only made possible, however, by the Football League giving special permission for the deal to be done after the deadline.
Little did Pearson know that he was signing the player who would score such a vital goal. "He had started to go up for the corner before I waved him forward," the director of football said. "He can bask in the glory now. Jimmy Glass will go down in the history of this club."
Glass, who once scored a hat-trick playing as a striker in a friendly for Bournemouth, one of his previous clubs, may never play for Carlisle again as he is under contract at Swindon for another three years. "When I was asked to come here I didn't know what position they were in," he said. "When I found out I nearly turned round and went home again."
Carlisle's supporters - over 7,000 of whom turned out on Saturday - will be eternally grateful that he did not change his mind about joining their club. While the fans were singing their new hero's name long into the night, however, they were also loudly expressing hatred for the man they feel is to blame for their club's recent decline.
Michael Knighton was once an ambitious director of Manchester United. Seven years ago he opted for the lesser lights of Carlisle, but his ambitions were not dimmed.
After taking over as Carlisle's chairman, Knighton said he would turn them into one of the top clubs in the country within a decade. Instead, he led them to the brink of oblivion.
Threats to not just himself but to his family have made him think about quitting the club this summer, but Knighton still defends his achievements - especially last season's pounds 1.4m profit. "We've had seven fantastic years with not a dull moment," he said. "But of course the abuse hurts. I know I am the man who gets the grief, but I love them all. They can shout as much as they like but they turned up. That's what matters."
Knighton insisted that he "shared the fans' emotional involvement" and he had clearly enjoyed the game's dramatic conclusion as much as anyone. "That was history out there," he said. "It was folklore."
The chairman even claimed that divine intervention had saved the day. "I believe in the hand of God," he said. "He had a little wink at me in the 90th minute, and I thank him very much." The fans will be hoping that, if he stays, Knighton relies on more traditional methods of securing success next season.
Goals: Phillips (49) 0-1; Brightwell (62) 1-1; Glass (90) 2-1.
Carlisle United (3-4-3): Glass; Bowman, Whitehead, Brightwell; Hopper (Bass, 74), Anthony, Prokas, Searle (Clark, 72); Tracey (Bagshaw, 55), Stevens, Dobie.
Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): Dungey; Ashton, Heathcote, Collins, Beswetherick; Phillips (Wotton, 82), Barlow, McCall (McGovern, 74), Gibbs (Bastow, 44); Crowe, Guinan.
Referee: F Stretton (Nottingham). Booked: Plymouth: Barlow.
Man of the match: Glass.
Attendance: 7,599.Reuse content