Kieran Shanks drew praise from Inverurie boss Andy Low as his winner sent Locos past Turriff United in the Aberdeenshire Cup.
Harlaw Park new boy Shanks restored their lead in the contest with 25 minutes to go, after Tyler Mykyta had cancelled out Andy Hunter’s opener.
They advance to face Fraserburgh in the quarter-finals at Bellslea after an energetic encounter in Inverurie.
Low said: “I thought Kieran was outstanding, especially in the first half. He maybe didn’t get involved in the game as much as he would have liked in the first half, but in the second half his work-rate was exceptional.
“It was the same with Andy Hunter. Jamie Michie deserves a mention as well, he was probably man-of-the-match over the 90 minutes. There were a lot of good, honest performances and I can say the same for Turriff.”
Shanks, let go by Aberdeen in the summer, started up front for Andy Low’s side, while Turriff handed debuts to Dons loanees Luke Turner, Connor Power and Mykyta.
It was nearly the perfect start for the home side, after Hunter’s diagonal ball was brought down well by Sam Burnett. He laid it into Jamie Michie’s path and his shot went narrowly wide.
However, this young Turriff side were not cowed and almost capitalised on a stray pass from Mark Souter, with Rory Brown seizing on the loose ball and forcing Andy Reid to save with his feet.
A bizarre series of events then saw both sides have goals disallowed in a frantic minute of play. Robert Ward’s mis-hit shot was turned back against the post by Brown and broke to Mykyta, who swept the ball into the bottom corner. However, a belated flag while Turriff were celebrating ruled the goal out and Reid launched an opportunistic ball forward.
Shanks had the entirety of the Turriff half to run into but got the ball trapped under his feet as he advanced on Fraser Hobday on the edge of the 18-yard box. Hunter had made ground to catch up with him and collected a backheel from Shanks to steer into an empty net, only for the flag to go up again on the opposite side of the pitch.
Turriff were not allowing their hosts to have it easy, with Ward latching on to another short backpass by Souter but running too wide to find a shooting angle. They also had a penalty appeal waved off by referee Filippo Mazzoni, when they felt Mykyta had been fouled by Neil McLean.
Locos skipper McLean proved a threat at the other end too and seven minutes before the break, his free-kick was nodded in from close-range by Hunter.
Locos threatened with two early headers at the start of the second half, with Calum Dingwall and Hunter both missing the target, before Kris Hunter’s men got themselves back on level terms.
Ward broke down the left and just as he was running out of space, cut the ball back at speed towards the six-yard box. The ball was deflected at Reid and into the path of Mykyta, who made sure with a low finish into the bottom corner.
The home side were back in front again on 65 minutes, with a McLean delivery again playing a key part. His corner was flicked back into the danger by Hunter, with Shanks finishing smartly on the swivel to crash past Hobday.
Low added: “You could see we were lacking a bit of match sharpness – it’s no fault of any of our boys. We’ve only managed to get two games in since we returned at the beginning of November.
“We grew into the game. We were much better in the second half and got a great goal from Kieran to win the game. It was a tough test and you’re delighted to get through to the next round.”