ROTHERHAM UNITED bounced back to winning ways as they edged a superb six-goal thriller with relegation-haunted Crewe Alexandra.
The visitors took the lead when Bradden Inman struck early on but Kieran Agard’s 13th goal of the season levelled matters.
Kelvin Mellor gave the Railwaymen the upper hand just shy of the hour mark but Lee Frecklington struck from the spot minutes later to peg Alex back for a second time.
After Adam Collin superbly saved Harry Davis’ spot-kick moments later, the game was turned on its head when Alex Revell’s header gave the Millers’ the lead.
Frecklington then put the icing on the cake late on when he added a fourth to give the Millers their first victory in three games.
The home side made two changes to their starting line-up since their last outing with Coventry City on New Year’s Day.
Loan signing Miles Addison was handed his Rotherham debut as skipper Craig Morgan was suspended following his red card against the Sky Blues while playmaker Ben Pringle made a welcome return to the home line-up following his one-match suspension as Joe Skarz had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes with Newcastle loanee James Tavernier reverting to his familiar full-back berth.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and in the early seconds, Frecklington released Agard, who skipped past Anthony Grant with a minimum of fuss before dragging a shot harmlessly wide of the target.
In their first foray of note, the Railwaymen missed a guilt edged chance to take the lead when Chuks Aneke’s ball over the top saw AJ Letich-Smith get on the wrong side of Kari Arnason before advancing menacingly on goal but his tame effort was comfortably gathered by Adam Collin.
However, the Millers failed to heed the warning as Alex broke the deadlock on 12 minutes.
A ball over the top saw Arnason head the ball into the path of Leitch-Smith, who had ghosted away from Addison and with acres of space, he weighed up his options before smacking an effort against the upright but the ball fell invitingly into the path of Inman on the follow-up, who made no mistake by smashing the ball into the heart of the home goal.
The home side responded bravely to the setback and following promptings in and around the visitors’ box, Agard worked a yard of space to clip a delicate cross which saw Revell loop a header which beat the outstretched hand of Ben Garratt, but to the home side’s anguish the ball struck the crossbar before rolling to safety, narrowing evading the approaching Agard.
Just past the quarter hour, Rotherham failed to clear decisively from a Leitch-Smith free-kick and following ping-pong in the box, Leitch-Smith struck goalwards but his effort was blocked by a ruck of bodies before Mark Ellis attempted to divert the ball into the net from point-blank range but the ball was hacked clear from the home line by a retreating defender with Collin a helpless bystander.
At the other end, Frecklington blazed an effort over the crossbar from the edge of the box as Alex only half-cleared a Pringle corner before Rotherham brought themselves back on level terms just shy of the half-hour.
Following a period of pressure, Byron Moore hoofed a clearance back into his own danger area and after Alex scrambled the ball clear, Mark Bradley found Agard, who showed fleet of foot to work a yard of space before drilling a low effort through the legs of Matt Tootle and the ball beat the outstretched hand of Garratt before finding the bottom corner of the net.
The home side were buoyed by the equaliser and Pringle delivered a tantalising centre which Alex failed to clear and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Frecklington, who smashed a half-volley from the edge of the box narrowly wide of the upright.
Minutes later, Newcastle duo Tavernier and Haris Vuckic combined with the former’s sweeping ball releasing the Slovenian, and after working a shooting position on the edge of the box, his shot was blocked before Agard fired a snap shot which was smartly gathered by Garratt.
Bradley then saw yellow for cynically hauling down Leitch-Smith as the Railwaymen attempted a breakaway before Revell blasted over the bar moments later when he should have done better.
With half-time approaching, Pringle swung a tantalising corner which saw Addison climb highest before glancing a header goalwards but the ball rolled harmlessly wide of the upright as an enthralling first-half was brought to a close.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Crewe Alexandra 1
Following the restart, the Millers had the first sight of goal when Tavernier struck a rising effort which cleared the crossbar.
The rampaging full-back was in the thick of the action minutes later as he got the better of Mellor to win possession before forcing his way into the box but his drilled effort was half-blocked by Ellis giving Garratt an easy save.
At the other end, the Millers had Arnason to thank for retaining parity as Inman’s marauding run had the home side backtracking before his goalbound effort was superbly blocked by the Icelandic international.
However, the home fans were stunned minutes later when Alex regained the lead just past the hour mark.
After Frecklington conceded a corner, Leitch-Smith floated a centre which saw the Millers’ struggling to clear their lines in their own box and after Agard was nudged off the ball, Mellor pounced on the loose ball to strike an effort through a ruck of bodies and into the home goal.
However, the visitors’ joy turned to despair as the Millers pegged them back for a second time just seven minutes later and it was Alex old boy, Tom Hitchcock, who was the architect of their downfall.
The QPR loanee came back to haunt his former club when Tavernier clipped a clever ball into the box and Davis appeared to clip his heels just inside the box as he looked to latch onto the throughball and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Frecklington kept his nerve from the resultant spot-kick when he fired past the outstretched hand of Garratt to find the far corner of the net.
In a topsy-turvy encounter, Alex were gifted an opportunity to regain the lead minutes later when an innocuous ball into the box saw Addison clamber over Leitch-Smith forcing the visitors’ frontman to tumble in the box and the referee awarded his second spot-kick in as matter of minutes and booked Addison in the process.
However, Collin came to the Millers rescue when he dived correctly to his left to smartly keep out Davis’ spot-kick.
The save proved more crucial with 16 minutes remaining when Rotherham took the lead for the first time in a see-saw encounter.
Following some fine approach play, the ball was switched to the left-flank and Pringle swung a fantastic centre to the far post and Revell, who had lost his marker, steered a fantastic header back across goal and with Garratt flying across goal, the ball found the far corner of the net to send the NYS into ecstasy.
Despite taking the lead, the home fans were living on their nerves when Anuke twice came close to levelling matters when he firstly dragged a shot inches wide of the post before the Arsenal loanee looked a certain scorer when he met a Moore cross but he bizarrely missed the target from point-blank range.
With full-time approaching, Rotherham came within a whisker of sealing the deal when Pringle’s ball down the line released Revell, who forced his way into the box before driving a low effort which was kept out by a combination of Garratt and the outside of the post.
However, Rotherham were given some breathing space moments later when Freckington pounced on the loose ball and after showing his closest marker a clean pair of heels, he struck a superb drive across goal and into the far corner of the net giving Garratt no chance to cap a superb fighting display by the home side.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 4 Crewe Alexandra 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Bradley (Brindley 90), Arnason, Addison, Tavernier, Agard, Frecklington, Milsom (O’Connor 82), Pringle, Revell, Vuckic (Hitchcock 61). Unused:- Shearer, Skarz, Walker, Rowe.
Crewe- Garratt, Tootle, Mellor, Davis, Ellis, Osman, Leitch-Smith (Pogba 81), Moore, Inman, Aneke, Grant. Unused:- Martin, Ray, Guthrie, Nolan, Oliver, Evans.
Referee:- K Hill
Attendance:- 7737 (456).