BARROW AFC 1 (White 54) CHESTER FC 2 (Archer 20, Crawford 76)

BARROW AFC retained their National League status by the skin of their teeth despite a final-day defeat to Chester.

The Bluebirds' dreadful home form came back to haunt them again as they lost 2-1 to the already-relegated visitors.

However, Dover's 2-1 win at Woking sent the Surrey team down and saved Barrow's bacon.

Barrow went into the game knowing victory would guarantee their National League survival after a roller-coaster of a season.

And after taking five points from the last three games, the mood in the AFC camp was upbeat at a sunny Holker Street.

Barrow went close as early as the third minute when Asa Hall's header was nodded just over his own crossbar by Chester's James Jones.

Then shortly afterwards Lewis Walters cut inside and tried his luck from 20 yards but his rasping drive flew narrowly wide of the post.

A giant throw from Dan Jones evaded a sea of bodies in the six-yard box and Chester keeper Andy Firth was relieved to see the ball roll out for a goal-kick.

Chester produced their first goal-bound effort on 14 minutes, but Tom Crawford's weak daisy-cutter posed no threat to Steve Arnold's goal, while soon after Arnold got a strong fist on a dangerous Craig Mahon cross.

The visitors were enjoying a good little spell with Jordan Gough firing over left-footed from the edge of the box.

The Bluebirds responded and Dan Jones lifted the home crowd with a vicious right-footer which was turned away for a corner by Firth, while moments later Grant Holt went close with a header, but his effort was too close to the keeper.

However, after being buoyed by those efforts, the home fans were soon deflated as Chester broke away with speed and Jordan Archer found too much space and time and coolly side-footed the ball past Arnold, to the delight of the visiting supporters behind the Holker Street end.

Much of Barrow's approach work was disjointed and one-dimensional with misplaced passes and nothing much to send pulses racing.

In fact the biggest cheer on the terraces came around the 25-minute mark when news came through that Dover had taken the lead at Woking – albeit an equaliser arrived later in the first half.

Barrow huffed and puffed and Hall fired high and wide when well placed on the right-hand edge of the area.

Chester were playing with the freedom and ease of a side with no pressure on them, whereas AFC looked jittery and trying too hard to force the issue.

AFC's biggest threat was coming from the long throws of Jones, and a flick-on from one of his airborne missiles almost found the back of the net as the half ended with the visitors 1-0 up.

Things nearly got a whole lot worse for Pennock's men at the start of the second period when a Ryan Astles header hit an unaware James Akintunde and landed safely in the arms of Arnold.

Barrow had a chance to get back in it when good work from Luke James on the right-hand side saw the ball arrive at the feet of Walters who tried to tee up Bedsente Gomis but his pass was intercepted.

Then Walters beat several defenders on a dangerous foray but unfortunately ran out of pitch as the ball rolled out for a goal-kick.

But Barrow got the goal they desperately needed on 54 minutes as Jordan White unleashed an unstoppable left-footed curler from outside the area.

The relegation battle was on a knife-edge with the Barrow and Woking games both tied at 1-1, and there was now a lot more urgency about Barrow's play.

Tony Diagne tried to emulate White but his 25-yarder flew too high.

Another long Jones throw caused panic in the Chester six-yard box before bouncing out for a goal-kick.

Calum MacDonald went close to giving AFC the lead but saw his well-struck free-kick from 25 yards beat the wall and Firth, but fly just the wrong side of the post. Then Walters brought the best out of Firth as he tipped his curling effort over the bar.

Disaster then struck as Chester regained the lead when more indecisive defending saw the ball land at the feet of Tom Crawford who toe-poked past a wrong-footed Arnold.

Barrow's National League status was hanging by a thread and Pennock reacted by bringing on youngsters Nathan Waterston and Harry Panayiotiou for Holt and MacDonald. Could they make a difference as AFC fans glanced nervously at score updates on their mobile phones?

Walters had a half-chance but fired his shot off-target and soon after Andy Halls missed a great opportunity to seal the victory for Chester but shot weakly straight at Arnold.

Late chances were headed off target from Panayiotou and James - but by that time news had filtered through to an ecstatic Holker Street that Dover had scored a 92nd-minute winner at Woking.

A 1-1 draw in that game would have seen AFC safe, but that scoreline was too close for comfort and Dover's late winner was met with a massive collective sigh of relief.

BARROW: Arnold, MacDonald, Diagne, Diarra, Hall (c) Walters, Jones, Gomis, White, Holt, James. Substitutes: Dixon, Fitzpatrick, Panayiotou, Waterston, Cook.

CHESTER: Firth, Halls, Astles (c), Mahon, Jones, Akintunde, Crawford, Archer, Gough, Thomson, Anderson. Substitutes: White, Noble, Brown, Hellawell, Downes.

Referee: Peter Wright.

Attendance: 1,788 (including 98 Chester fans).