BILLY Hunt was the two-goal hero as battling Brightlingsea Regent defeated AFC Hornchurch to book their place in the third qualifying round of the FA Trophy.

The front man scored at the beginning and end of an absorbing contest at the Taydal Stadium, in the process earning his side prize money to the tune of £4,000.

The 2-1 victory means Regent will now wait with baited breath to see who their next opponents are, when the draw takes place on Monday lunchtime.

Hunt’s stunning opener put the hosts ahead in the second minute but the visitors levelled on the half-hour mark through Leon McKenzie.

However, with the tie heading towards a midweek replay, despite the Urchins hitting the woodwork twice, Hunt struck again eight minutes from time, prodding his side into the lead and grabbing what proved their winner.

Both sides went into Saturday’s second qualifying round tie sitting in similar positions in the Bostik League premier division, with Hornchurch 13th and the R’s 17th.

Neither were in especially good form, either.

Having been unbeaten in four, Regent had lost their previous two games 2-0 – against Carshalton Athletic and then at Bowers and Pitsea, in Tuesday’s Essex Senior Cup tie.

Hornchurch had lost four of their previous five league games and were also in need of a boost.

After a minute’s silence ahead of Armistice Day, Regent, who had eliminated Canvey Island in the previous round, got off to the best possible start thanks to a spectacular goal from striker Hunt.

With just two minutes on the clock, the front man spotted keeper Callum Chafer off his line and lobbed him from 35 yards.

Hornchurch could only watch on helplessly as the ball dropped into the empty net, giving the hosts an early advantage.

Neither team looked like scoring in the ensuing passage of play until Hornchurch – 6-0 conquerors of Ramsgate in the previous round - grabbed their leveller on 30 minutes, after a strong run from Bradley Warner.

He won a corner for his side that was swung in by George Saunders and headed home by Leon McKenzie.

Hornchurch thought they had scored again just before the break after Warner’s free-kick was deflected inside the near post – only for referee Elliott Kaye to spot a handball by Lewis Spence.

It was the visitors who went close just after the restart.

Jay Porter whipped in a cross from the left but McKenzie’s header bounced back off the right-hand post and into the grateful arms of R’s keeper James Bradbrook.

The second half continued to be hard-fought, with little between the sides.

Regent continued to look for an opening while the visitors went close on a couple of occasions.

First, McKenzie swivelled in the box and forced a save from Bradbrook.

Skipper Alex Bentley then volleyed wide after a corner was only half-cleared.

There was one more major scare for the R’s when McKenzie hit the woodwork again – this time the top of the bar – after a teasing cross from Saunders.

But it was Regent who grabbed their dramatic winner in the 83rd minute.

A long free-kick was pumped into the box and predator Hunt got a toe on it to direct the ball past Chafter.

Third qualifying round ties take place on the weekend of Saturday, November 24.