Cove are a step closer to retaining their title, but they had to call on all their expertise to stretch their lead over 10-man Wick Academy, with three goals in the final three minutes.
The turning point came in the 33rd minute, when Academy defender Michael Steven was red-carded for tugging Mitch Megginson’s shirt in the box.
From there on, and with only 10 players on a huge playing surface, the Caithness side were always going to struggle.
Cove central defender Darryn Kelly said: “At half-time our manager John Sheran told us to relax.
“We hadn’t played particularly well in the first half, but I thought Wick did.
“They knocked the ball about well and had a good go at us. I was really impressed by them, but the sending-off helped and we were able to go in at half-time all-square, and regroup for the second half.
“We had a wee bit of luck with a deflection for the opening goal but you need that when you are going for the title.
“We now have three cup finals to play and if we win them we win the league – and of course we can do it.”
Cove were at full strength with the return of top scorer Mitch Megginson, Harry Milne, Ryan Strachan and Daniel Park, all of whom missed the midweek trip to Fort William.
Academy were without central defender Grant Steven and attacker Alan Hughes but they had plenty of firepower on the bench in the shape of former Elgin City striker Craig Gunn.
In the 33rd minute, Wick were reduced to 10 men when centre-half Michael Steven tugged Megginson’s jersey in the box.
Referee Dan McFarlane immediately pointed to the spot and brandished a red card.
Megginson took the resultant spot-kick himself but McCarthy dived to his left to bring off a fine save.
No doubt Cove Rangers manager John Sheran had a choice word or two with his players at the break after a rather lacklustre first-half performance.
In the 50th minute, Cove took the lead in fortuitous circumstances with a Scott Ross header landing up in the back of the net off Academy midfielder Richard Macadie for an own-goal.
Shortly after, Ryan Strachan’s pin-point cross was headed inches wide by Martin Scott as Cove started to turn the screw.
The home side doubled their advantage in the 65th minute, with Scott turning in a Connor Scully cross at the back post. Megginson then warmed up McCarthy’s hands with a stinging 30-yard free-kick.
With three minutes to go, Cove made it 3-0 with a crisp 15-yard finish from Daniel Park, the ball going into the net off the inside of the post.
In the 89th minute Scott Ross added another with a back-post header and, in stoppage-time, Megginson added No 5 from just inside the box, again with the help of a wicked deflection.
Disappointed Academy centre-half Alan Farquhar said: “It was only when we had a man sent off that Cove were able to open us up in the second half.
“We were also unlucky to concede the opener with an own goal.”