These days, it is a case of battling to get away from the bottom end of the Football League. In 1974, it was weekly top-flight contests for Carlisle United – and, every so often, remarkable results.

Yes, 1974/5 proved a fleeting experience in the old First Division. But the Blues did not come down from the highest rung of the ladder without upsetting some of the English game’s finest.

No better example came in October ’74 when the future champions came to Brunton Park and found themselves on the end of a thorough beating.

Dave Mackay’s Derby County were not, initially, pacesetters, having started with just one win from their opening seven league games.

Greater things, though, awaited the Rams, while Alan Ashman’s historic Blues side were coming down from the astonishing peak of having topped the table after three matches.

Come Derby’s visit, United had won just once in 10 – yet Ashman’s side roused themselves into a comprehensive performance in front of 13,353 fans.

They went into it without two of the season’s most prominent players. An ankle injury cost Joe Laidlaw his place in the side while Les O’Neill was resting as a consequence of a troublesome hamstring.

There was also a change in goal, Tom Clarke playing only his third game in a year in place of the great Allan Ross, yet United absorbed these changes smoothly.

Mike Barry, himself back in the side after injury, imposed himself on the contest with some good passing contributions, and United’s intent was clear in the very first minute, as Peter Carr’s free-kick evaded the Derby defence and allowed skipper Bill Green to head for goal.

Keeper Colin Boulton got in the way of that attempt, while at the other end it was the job of Green and Bobby Parker to marshal the obvious threats posed by Derby’s Francis Lee and Archie Gemmill.

News and Star: United apply pressure on the Derby defenceUnited apply pressure on the Derby defence

That they did with some excellent defending, while Clarke excelled in the 10th minute to save a fierce Bruce Rioch shot.

Clarke later turned a David Nish effort past the post and this, along with some well-timed defensive challenges, gave United a platform for the time when they grew further into the game.

Bobby Owen had a Blues goal disallowed for offside but when Carlisle fully emerged from the spell of Derby pressure, they struck with a dramatic opener.

Ray Train combined with Dennis Martin down the left, before Chris Balderstone and Frank Clarke had shots blocked. Train, racing in from the wing, concluded this frantic shooting with an angled drive that flew high into the net - and United were ahead in the 42nd minute.

Train’s strike conclusively drew the sting from Mackay’s men and United went on to show their impressive range in the second half, Barry and Balderstone spreading play brightly from midfield and Ashman’s side applying renewed pressure in search of more goals.

Clarke came close to making it two after a typically classy through-ball from Balderstone, but United were not to be denied – and Martin was on hand to double the home side’s lead after Clarke’s shot had hit the foot of the post.

Clarke’s luckless finishing had been an unfortunate feature of Carlisle’s otherwise effective attacking, but that finally changed four minutes later when the striker got the goal his efforts deserved amid more Blues pressure.

It came in the 70th minute after Owen had switched play intelligently to raiding left-back John Gorman. Keeper Boulton collided with a defender as the Scot’s cross came in, and Clarke snaffled the loose ball to score his first of the season.

It had developed into United’s finest First Division win so far, and was almost more emphatic in the later stages when Colin Todd almost caught out keeper Boulton with a risky backpass, and when Owen swerved a shot agonisingly wide.

News and Star: United close down the Derby defence in front of a packed PaddockUnited close down the Derby defence in front of a packed Paddock

The 3-0 outcome was, though, a welcome and impressive one as United restored belief that they could tussle with the best.

The future proved more challenging, alas, for Ashman’s side went on to lose their next six games. Laidlaw, O’Neill and Ross duly returned, but Carlisle suffered for the lack of a deadly finisher and the resulting relegation battle was one they were unable to win.

As they bowed out of top-flight football, though, they did so with one last valiant showing. It came on the final day at the Baseball Ground, when their 0-0 draw in front of more than 36,000 fans came against a resurgent Derby who, after a formidable second half of the campaign, had their hands on the title trophy for the second time in four years.

United: T Clarke, Carr, Gorman, Balderstone, Green, Parker, Martin, Train, F Clarke, Owen, Barry. Sub: Spearritt.

Derby: Boulton, Webster, Nish, Rioch, Daniel, Todd, Newton, Gemmill, Davies, Hector, Lee. Sub: Thomas.

Crowd: 13,353.