THE third Football League season was a charm for Oxford United, who were transformed from also-rans to promotion contenders.

Bill Calder’s opening-day hat-trick helped beat Crewe Alexandra 4-2 and they were third after six unbeaten games.

While never a front-runner, Arthur Turner’s side did enough to stay in touch with the leading pack.

Only Millwall, who finished second, lost fewer games than the U’s, whose progress was stunted by their tendency to draw too often.

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When things clicked, they could be devastating, as Barrow discovered just before Christmas.

Colin Booth, the side’s top-scorer with 23 goals, hit a hat-trick in a 7-0 win which remains the club’s record Football League victory.

An indifferent start to 1965 saw them slip backwards and a 2-1 defeat at Chester City in February saw them slip four points adrift of the promotion zone, having played more games than several of their rivals in a congested table.

Another Calder treble downed Newport County 4-1 in the following game, which began a superb run.

Four wins in the next five got them back in contention and although they lost 4-1 at Aldershot on March 20, it was their final setback of the season.

The run-in included victories over promotion rivals Bradford Park Avenue and Tranmere Rovers, which got them back into the top-four with a week of the season left.

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It was a gruelling finish.

After winning at Tranmere on Saturday, they saw off Torquay United 3-0 at home two days later.

The sides met again in Devon on Wednesday, where John Fahy scored the ninth goal in his seven-game purple patch to earn a crucial 1-1 draw.

The fourth game in eight exhausting days was at home to Darlington, whose squad relaxed the night before by watching Val Doonican at the New Theatre.

United, meanwhile were looking to walk tall by keeping to their normal routine.

On the eve of the game, trainer Ken Fish said: “Preparations have been just the same as for any other match. I have left it up to the players what they do because I know I can rely on them. They know what is expected.”

And they duly delivered, Cyril Beavon’s penalty earning a 1-0 win as United completed their fixtures sitting second in the table.

But the champagne stayed on ice.

Brighton & Hove Albion and Tranmere still had one more game to play, while Millwall had two.

Although Brighton and Millwall leapfrogged United, Tranmere’s 1-0 defeat at Doncaster Rovers on April 27 confirmed the promotion.

While the party started in Oxford, Turner’s celebrations were delayed.

Having gone to Wrexham to watch Millwall’s visit, he broke down twice on the return journey.

So it was left to chairman Ron Coppock to lead the congratulations.

He said: “Arthur Turner has done a wonderful job and so has Ron Atkinson as skipper. It has all been wonderful teamwork.

“When they lost at Aldershot the team all knew they had to obtain 11 points out of the last 14. In fact, they got 12.”

Beavon added: “This is fantastic. I am beyond words.”