The Italian 3 The Grecians 1
Wycombe Wanderers 3 Exeter City 1
Italian striker Marcello Trotta scored a Boxing Day hat-trick to thwart the Grecians and lift the Blues out of the relegation zone for the first time in two months.
On-loan from Fulham, Trotta has scored each time he's played for Wycombe and today's masterclass in finishing earned him a standing ovation from the Adams Park crowd.
His arrival along with fellow loanee Anthony McNamee has given the Blues a new lease of life. Seemingly incapable of keep a clean sheet, they need to score plenty of goals and have now bagged 11 in their last four games, 8 of which have been scored by the two newcomers.
Barring an influx of quality in the January transfer window, the Blues' fate this season will probably depend on how long they are able to retain the services of their key loanees.
They certainly got off to the perfect start today with a goal in the first minute. Some dogged determination from Matt Bloomfield won possession for the Blues and allowed Anthony McNamee the chance to show some super skill on the left touchline before crossing into the box where Trotta was on hand to lash the ball into the back of the net.
The home side came close to adding a second when full-back Marvin McCoy went on a solo run down the right flank and delivered a tantalising ball across the face of the visitors' goal which no-one was able to convert.
Moments later a long throw into the box from McCoy was headed goalwards by Stuart Beavon and saved by City keeper Artur Krysiak.
With 15 minutes gone, a prolonged period of Wycombe pressure ended with Stuart Lewis bursting through a crowd of players and bearing down on goal, but Krysiak was always favourite to get there first and managed to clear the danger.
The Grecians had their first attempt on goal after 17 minutes when James Dunne fired a shot wide of Nikki Bull's post, and five minutes later the visitors were level when an inswinging corner was powerfully headed home by Danny Coles.
Stung into action, the Blues were quick to respond but both Beavon and Trotta saw their efforts saved by Krysiak.
As the first-half progressed it became increasingly open and Exeter certainly had their chances with David Noble putting one over the bar and Guillem Bauza pouncing on an error from McNamee and forcing Bull into a crucial diving save.
The resulting corner saw Bauza blaze a great chance over the crossbar from close range when it looked easier to score. But as we discovered later, it just wasn't his day.
Moments later Matt Bloomfield was the saviour when he raced back into his own penalty area and made a perfectly timed tackle to foil a dangerous City breakaway down Wycombe's unprotected left flank.
Liam Sercombe then fired one over for the Grecians, but the Blues regained the lead when Trotta bagged his second goal after 40 minutes.
Collecting the ball on the left hand side of the box, the Italian outfoxed his markers and darted towards goal before lashing the ball home from a seemingly impossible angle.
Shortly before the break Joel Grant escaped down the right but was too slow in releasing the ball to Stuart Beavon, who nevertheless managed to test Krysiak with a low shot.
Exeter started the second half strongly but were slightly fortunate to be awarded a penalty after 48 minutes when Jake Taylor 'fell over' the diving Bull who appeared to have made good contact with the ball.
Bauza's spot kick wasn't great and Bull dived low to his right to stop it before keeping his composure to block the Spaniard's follow up as well.
McNamee lashed a low shot narrowly wide of the post after 53 minutes and Beavon's fierce drive suffered the same fate a few minutes later, but for the majority of the second-half, Wycombe were less ambitious than they had been before the break and the rare sight of them trying to protect a lead caused some anxiety among the crowd.
Fortunately, apart from another free header from a corner which flew narrowly past the post, the Grecians failed to threaten the Wycombe goal and the Blues stood firm, especially after switching to a 4-5-1 formation when Martin Rowlands replaced Grant with Beavon moving out wide.
Another loanee, this was Rowlands' last game for Wycombe unless a new deal is struck with his parent club QPR. This is particularly significant as ball-winner and all-round tough guy Stuart Lewis picked up his fifth booking of the season this afternoon and is suspended for Saturday's game against a physical Stevenage FC.
Back to today, and there was a very happy ending to proceedings when Trotta took possession on the left flank, looked up, drifted menacingly toward goal and finally killed Exeter's lingering hopes by slotting the ball home for a memorable hat-trick in front of his family who had travelled to the game from Italy.
Bravo Marcello - Si prega di soggiorno per la stagione.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (7), McCoy (6), Winfield (6), Johnson (6), Foster (5), Grant (6) (Rowlands 70 (6)), Lewis (7), Bloomfield (7), McNamee (7) (Ainsworth 84 (n/a)), Trotta (9) (Harris 93 (n/a)), Beavon (8)