Carlisle United 3 Newport County 2: Did this make all the struggle and the suffering worthwhile? Not quite – it will be a long time before anyone can stomach another five-game drought at Brunton Park – but this was still some way to turn the taps back on.

With any luck, Danny Grainger’s shot which rose superbly into Newport’s net will also lead Carlisle back on an upward path. It has to, otherwise this dramatic, absorbing victory won’t count for anything other than a single afternoon of relief.

United’s recent work at their home ground has sapped faith. Hence Saturday’s crowd, their lowest for a weekend league game since January 2015. This was the bed Carlisle had made with their barren form and the challenge is to get more people back to see moments like Grainger’s brilliant winner: one of those strikes you can happily watch on a loop.

Those who remained faithful to the end here were rewarded with almost the final kick. Nobody in this Blues squad can address a ball quite like their captain when it rolls into his path in this manner, demanding a first-time shot. It still, though, required some particular qualities to produce peak results.

Concentration, and focus, from a player who had not started or finished a game since August. A reliance on technique, amid tiring legs, at a time United had lost a two-goal lead. Grainger delivered in each department and there is no doubt United have missed some of this while he has been out with an injured calf.

“I just thought, get your head over it and see what happens,” said Grainger of his goal. “It was nice to see it rise up into the top corner.” It was indeed a moment Brunton Park had long been waiting for and also happened to be United’s first injury-time winner for two years.

The ability to win like this is often the stamp of a good side. Carlisle’s issues, their limited funds and numbers, remain clear and present. This, though, ought to reinstate at least some belief. “It’s good character from the lads,” added Paul Murray, the first-team coach. “We stayed positive.”

That they did on a wet and windy day that took observers on the familiar scenic journey, even after the unusual revelation of an early two-goal lead. Carlisle, with a 3-5-2 system featuring Grainger at wing-back and Jerry Yates up front with Ashley Nadesan, threw enough of themselves at Newport to get their stress-busting opener early on.

Yates should have got it, pouncing on a miscued Dan Butler header but failing to beat Joe Day, but Jamie Devitt then did, sneaking onto George Glendon’s cross after some good Nadesan industry, diverting it into the bottom left corner to end the seven hour, 59 minute wait.

Typically – or not, this being Carlisle - one brought two. Devitt had wind in his sails and there was a certain confidence about the way he struck his second, receiving a short corner back from Yates and whipping the ball inside Day’s near post.

On a hat-trick for the first time at United, Devitt’s advanced position in midfield helped him cause this amount of danger. His return from injury has also restored one of the Blues’ more likely creators - yet from here they also had to contend with an affronted Newport, who were obliged to bring out some of their best play in search of a way back.

Padraig Amond, busily leading the line, nearly sneaked onto a Macaulay Gillesphey error but Adam Collin saved. At the other end, Gillesphey tested Day, and there was a pattern of to and fro, neither side dominant, neither in their shell, neither entirely secure.

For Newport, Butler had a volley blocked, Amond fired over and both Gary Liddle and Anthony Gerrard cleared further danger when Carlisle’s defensive shape seemed less than watertight. For United, Yates was denied again by Day after Butler had miscued a Devitt cross, but then the visitors marched back into the game, Amond finding easy space in the box to head Robbie Willmott’s cross past Collin, Liddle on the line unable to keep it out.

Having announced their threat in this way, Newport then filed several more reminders. Before the break, Antoine Semenyo thrashed a shot over and Collin saved from Tyreeq Bakinson. After it, their midfield showed further presence and also an eagerness to make the most of Carlisle’s mistakes.

These came as United no longer had the emotional comfort of a two-goal lead. Newport were also fourth in the league for a reason and they almost scored a second long before they did, Semenyo close again, Micky Demetriou trying an overhead kick, Amond shooting wide and greater tension in the air as it went from end to end.

Carlisle kept running, kept trying, but without obvious authority until the latter spell, when both sides made changes and Sheridan moved Yates to the right, brought Jack Sowerby forward into midfield and put Regan Slater on.

Back came County, Sheehan slapping a shot into the side-netting. Back went Carlisle, Slater denied by Day. Richie Bennett, another sub, then picked out Nadesan, who headed against the post.

Back, again, came Newport, and in this spell Collin excelled, saving from Jamille Matt at the near post and then again, tipping over a towering header. A little later the keeper held a cross and gestured for calm. No such luck.

On 87 minutes, deflation, as Bennett fouled Bakinson a few inches outside the box, Matty Dolan fired it across, Collin made a great point-blank save from Butler but Newport's number three gobbled up the rebound. This, one felt, is simply how it had to be: even a better Brunton Park day ending with a demonstration of Carlisle’s flaws.

But no – not this time. Devitt tried for his treble, Day keeping out his curler, while Matt missed a header for Newport, furious at being denied a penalty. Then came the showstopping end, Bennett leaping in the box, Day punching clear, and Grainger hitting it so sweetly, a further layer of dust flying off the opposition net in the 93rd minute.

Nobody could deny anyone their joy at that moment, particularly that felt by Carlisle’s supporters, who have been seriously short-changed for the last couple of months. Let us hope beyond hope that their captain, thankfully off the treatment table, has blasted them back towards better times.

United: Collin, Liddle, Gerrard, Gillesphey, Grainger, Sowerby, Jones (Slater 66), Glendon (Bennett 66), Devitt, Yates, Nadesan. Not used: Gray, Miller, Campbell, Egan, McCarron.

Goals: Devitt 8, 11, Grainger 90

Newport: Day, Pipe, Butler, Forbes (Matt 66), Demetriou, Willmott, Bakinson, Dolan, Sheehan (Marsh-Brown 85), Amond, Semenyo (Harris 81). Not used: Townsend, Foulston, Cooper, Collins.

Goals: Amond 38, Butler 87

Ref: Chris Sarginson

Crowd: 3,541 (136 Newport fans)