THE League One promotion race was always going to see plenty of twists and turns and that was summed up by a frantic Tuesday night of action in which Rovers gave their hopes of a top two finish a shot in the arm with a terrific away victory at Portsmouth.

Adam Armstrong bagged a brace, his winner coming just three minutes from time, and the importance of this three points was demonstrated by the celebrations of the players and the terrific 884 travelling fans at full time.

The nerves of those watching on inside Fratton Park and back in East Lancashire will have been shredded come the final whistle, but the importance of this win cannot be underestimated.

Shrewsbury Town are the new league leaders after beating Fleetwood, moving a point clear of Wigan, who lost at home to Blackpool. Rovers remain third, on goal difference, and just a point off top spot.

Ewood boss Tony Mowbray recalled Dominic Samuel to the starting line-up on the south coast in place of Danny Graham and the former Coventry man had a great chance to justify his selection within four minutes.

The lively Jack Payne rolled in the striker but his low shot was kept out by the legs of home keeper Luke McGee.

Samuel was one of two changes alongside Armstrong, whose equalising goal off the bench against Oldham four days earlier had earned him a recall.

And in the 21st minute the Newcastle United loanee showed his goalscoring talents, lashing home an instinctive half-volley from 12 yards out into the top corner despite the best efforts of McGee.

Within 60 seconds the hosts went close to levelling, Dion Donohue’s inswinging free-kick causing havoc in the Rovers defence with Conor Chaplin and Gareth Evans both seeing shots blocked after David Raya could only punch up, rather than away.

The game was being played at a frenetic pace, Rovers pressing high up the pitch and winning the ball off the Pompey backline as both sides battled for the ascendancy.

Brett Pitman, leading the line for the hosts, was an obvious threat with 14 league goals to his name this season coming into this one and a neat bit of skill just after the half hour provided him with a chance to add to his tally. However, he didn’t catch his left foot shot as sweetly as he would have wished and Raya was able to gather.

Pitman and Evans blasted over from promising positions as the hosts pressed for a leveller, but the closest they came was through full-back Anton Walkes in first-half stoppage time. He cut in on his left foot and his curling shot had Raya scrambling but flashed narrowly wide of the post.

Within five minutes of the second half Pompey did find the equaliser.

A spell of pressure saw Conor Chaplin score, heading in at the far post after Walkes turned the ball goalwards. The striker couldn’t miss and it spurred on the home side, battling for a play-off place themselves,and it seemed within 60 seconds Pitman would hand Pompey the lead but he fired over from the left edge of the box with the goal at his mercy after a collision between Raya and Ryan Nyambe.

The latter received extensive treatment before being stretchered off, with Darragh Lenihan, making his first senior appearance since the opening day, replacing him while Lewis Travis came on for Jack Payne as Rovers moved to a back three.

Rovers adapted quickly to their new system and threatened when Dack found space 25 yards out but McGee kept out his effort.

As the game ticked into the final 15 minutes both teams sensed a winner. Walkes went close for Pompey before a Mulgrew free-kick was a whisker away from curling in at the other end as Lenihan and Paul Downing just failed to get a touch.

Both sides sent on strikers, Ollie Hawkins for the hosts and Graham for Rovers, but it was Armstrong who found the game’s third goal when he reacted quickest to Matt Clarke’s poor clearance to steer the ball in.

Seven added minutes gave the hosts hope, as did a straight red card for Travis after a late lunge on Nathan Thompson, but Rovers held out courtesy of some fine defending, typified by Lenihan on his return to the side.