Connor Dugard believes Eastbourne have proved their credentials as serious title contenders.

But they left it late to beat rivals Kent in another Arlington thriller.

Eagles grabbed heat advantages in 13 and 15 to edge out their rivals 47-43 in the National League.

Their result included two heat wins for 15-year-old Tom Brennan on his first full league meeting, just three weeks after breaking his collarbone on his debut.

Adam Ellis, handed his first defeat in a home race since joining Eagles, bounced back with big wins in heats 13 and 15 as the hosts grabbed 4-2s to secure victory. They could face Kent again in the title play-offs.

Eastbourne won a knockout treble last season and are keen to add the missing piece – the league title – this year.

Team boss Dugard said: “I said to them at the interval that I have won trophies with Eastbourne. I said, ‘Some of you haven’t won anything at this level so I know what is expected. You need to put the points in’ – and they did.

“They said we needed to start making some starts and got their acts together and proved they are probably one of the best teams in this league.”

It was a terrific meeting – and one tinged with controversy.

Ellis Perks was excluded by referee Christina Turnbull in heat eight when Jack Thomas seemed to cut across him. Then Danny Ayres was thrown out of heat 13 after he claimed he had his leg taken away by home rider Jake Knight.

Dugard said: “No disrespect to the referee but I was disappointed with the decision in heat eight to exclude to Ellis Perks – but then she made the right decision when Danny Ayres came off in heat 13.

“I guess it worked itself out but we didn’t deserve that. We could have finished up without a point.”

Perks added: “The referee calls the shots and that’s the way she saw it. I felt a bit hard done by and so did the fans. There was a little bit of contact down the straight but I let him go into the corner in front of me and he falls off of his own accord and I had to avoid him but the referee excludes me. I don’t know why.”

Brennan limited the damage after Perks’ disqualification by beating Thomas and Luke Clifton in the re-run to keep Kent’s lead to two points.

The Hassocks schoolboy also won the reserves’ race by going from last to first on the opening lap.

Kent nudged into a 31-29 lead when Ellis, unbeaten in his first 27 home races for Eagles, finished behind James Shanes.

But Knight, who was not at his best, came to life to beat Kent No.1 Luke Bowen for the 4-2 which tied the scores again before the hosts staged their late charge.

Perks said: “The build up to this meeting has been massive. There has been a lot of publicity on social media. It is the best crowd we have seen all year.

“The pressure was on all the way from start to finish. It is unreal. We are stoked to come away with victory over Kent.”

Eagles: Ellis 14 (5), Perks 9 (5), Wood 8+1 (4), Knight 8 (5), Brennan 6 (6), Harris 2 (5), Cottham r/r.

Kent: Bowen 11 (5), Shanes 10 (5), Thomas 7+2 (5), Ayres 7 (4), Mason 4 (4), Verge 3+3 (4), Clifton 1+1 (4).