There is little in football to top a last-minute winner, even more so when it keeps your season alive. It was this bundle of ecstatic feelings that Hallam Hope enjoyed last weekend and now it is about ensuring it was a start, rather than an end.

Carlisle head to Stevenage this Saturday with renewed vigour, thanks to their dramatic late efforts against Bury. One of the season’s more eventful games having gone their way, there should, one imagines, be fresh belief where their play-off chances are concerned.

Whether that can be translated into another positive result is another matter. This weekend will be another afternoon in a volatile league, in a volatile season. Anyone claiming to be confident about what to expect has probably not been paying attention to Carlisle’s campaign and the fourth tier in general.

It may remain a matter of hope rather than expectation, but if coming from behind to beat one of the division’s best sides does not inject something positive into Cumbrian veins, what will?

Hope, in particular, ought to be in bright spirits as he considers the trip to Hertfordshire. Although his goal against Bury was the forward’s 32nd in a Carlisle shirt, it was the first last-minute winner he has scored for the Brunton Park club.

His celebration, a sprint halfway back up the pitch before team-mates could get him under control, told the story of the moment, both personally and collectively. Especially the latter, the 25-year-old said.

“It meant loads to us, to be honest,” Hope said. “You could tell by the celebration how much it meant to us on the pitch – the staff and the fans, everyone together.

“At half-time we knew it was gonna be an uphill battle. It was a bit disheartening really [to go in 2-1 down and a man down after 45 minutes following Mike Jones’ red card]. But at half-time we all stuck together and said, ‘We know we can do it’.

“We were positive about it, and then we went out with a belief in us, and showed what we can do – and we beat them.

“It was a massive three points. We needed three points. With everything that went on in the game, we still came out of the other side with them.

“We’re all buzzing for that and now we focus on the next game.”

Hope is right that there is little time to dwell. All United’s dramatic efforts against the Shakers did was keep them in the race. They still have ground to make up and only five more games in which to do so.

Stevenage, a familiar foe over the years, will set a different range of challenges, after which the diverse opposition of Lincoln, Grimsby, Crawley and Yeovil must be faced.

United, then, must demonstrate that they did not simply raise their game for a one-off classic, and that instead they can reel off more victories to give this up-and-down season one final, thrilling rise.

Hope will no doubt be key to that aim. Carlisle’s top scorer has, since winter, found particular goalscoring form. He has hit 11 in his last 20 appearances and while United have not been winning games in abundance recently since the new-year loss of some influential loanees, the record suggests Hope has, at least, been doing his bit to keep them alive.

His tally could have been higher with a sharper chance-conversion rate, such as on Saturday, when he was twice denied by Bury’s Joe Murphy. His ratio, though, remains good – and thankfully against Ryan Lowe’s side he took the one that counted.

“I had two chances before that, and I always thought I’d get another one,” he said.

“The cross went over my head, and went to the back post towards Connor Simpson. I turned round and I thought he was going to get there. He did, and I just put [his cross] away.”

It also seemed significant because Hope is a former Bury player. Over the years it has often been an ex-Blues favourite returning to harm his old club but on Saturday the roles were reversed. The striker, though, did not take extra satisfaction because of this.

“Not because it’s my old club, no,” he said. “I had good times at Bury, and got promoted with them. It just felt good for us, really. For us going forward.

“We’ve been playing ok, it’s just that wins haven’t been there of late. The performances have been there, just not the wins. But if you keep putting performances in, you know you’ll get the points in the end and we’ll get where we want to be.

“There wasn’t any doubt for us. We train with each other every day, we know what each other’s capable of. We knew we’d get chances – we just needed to take them. And we did.

“You could see everyone was working, every man on the pitch was working, the subs who came on did well. We all stuck to the plan and we got the three points. I think we’ve been due that for a while, to be honest.”

Hope was keen to share praise around after United’s much-needed win. In an attacking sense they examined Bury with some good counter-attacking play which brought the likes of Callum O’Hare and Jamie Devitt, both of whom also scored, to the fore.

“It’s really good for me playing with them,” Hope said. “It’s a joy, really. They can handle the ball, they find passes, and are obvious a goal threat as well.”

The other end of the pitch, meanwhile, saw keeper Adam Collin in brilliant form, saving superbly from Nicky Maynard, Byron Moore and others. “He’s quality – he does it every week, he saves shots that he shouldn’t save, keeps us in games, and we’re thankful to have him,” Hope said.

A tally of 14 is the best of Hope’s career, and will need to be increased if Carlisle are to keep this play-off push alive. If confidence counts for anything in football then United’s dramatic finale must surely have given player and team at least a chance.

“It can give us massive momentum going into the upcoming games,” Hope said. “We’re all looking forward and we know we can do it – we know we can get the job done.

“Stevenage will probably be a different type of game to what [last Saturday] was, but we’ll just listen to the manager, put in a performance and hopefully get the win.”