Melton Town claimed three big points as their eighth clean sheet of the season earned a narrow win at promotion rivals Blackstones.
In a pivotal game against the side sitting second in United Counties League Division One, Town produced a tremendous first half before surviving a late onslaught to win 1-0.
Melton kept possession very well in a fast start against a Blackstones defence which looked edgy and nervous.
The first half-chance came after 11 minutes when Jordan Lever made a run down the right and played a one-two with Zak Munton before sending in a low shot which the keeper comfortably dealt with.
Nathan Arnold then stepped over Munton’s pass, leaving it for Storey to fire in a shot which Bellairs had to tip over the bar.
The pressure finally paid off in the 17th minute when a free-kick in the middle of the centre circle found Sam Beaver.
Leon Fray met his lay-off sweetly to thunder in a shot off the upright.
Both teams threw everything in what had become an end-to-end game.
Beaver and Fray stood firm to the threat of Clarke, while the visitors looked dangerous in attack.
After good work down the right, Lever’s cross found Munton whose great header forced Bellairs to tip over once more.
Munton gave Ben Easson a hard time on the left and Town’s leading scorer shaved the bar and post with another shot.
Melton should really have increased their lead five minutes before half-time when Munton and debutant Scott Sandy found themselves two-on-one.
But Munton passed sideways rather than shooting, and the bobbling ball evaded Sandy at the crucial moment.
The hosts’ first effort on target came right on the whistle when Clark’s cross found De Sousa unmarked at the back post, but the alert Johnson made a point-blank save to preserve the lead.
The second half started at a blistering pace with chances galore.
Arnold found himself one-on-one, but Bellairs forced him wide and the retreating Wilmer blocked the shot.
Then Fray miscontrolled a high ball and Clark sent a first-time shot inches wide.
Johnson then had to push an Edmondson shot around the post after a melee in the Melton box.
Easson nearly put his team in trouble as he tried to play his way out of defence, his clearance across the box hitting Munton’s head and brushing the outside of the post.
And from a breakaway attack, Munton’s defence-splitting pass fell to Sandy, but he missed the target.
Melton’s last real chance came with nine minutes to go when Hibbitt’s glancing header found Munton who cut in on Pell, but fired just over.
Town’s failure to put the game out of reach nearly came back to bite them in stoppage-time with a Blackstones sucker-punch.
A floated cross found Clark unmarked in the area, but his finish lacked composure and flew yards wide.
The defence had to fight tooth-and-nail for their eighth shut-out in 10 league outings.
But it was enough to lift Tom Manship’s side up to seventh, five points off second place and with games in hand on all of the teams above them.
Melton face a tough test on Wednesday evening in the quarter-finals of the league cup at Premier Division high-flyers Holbeach (ko 7.45pm) before visiting Bourne on Saturday in the league (ko 3pm).
Town: Johnson, Beaver, Benjamin, Hibbitt, Gilchrist, Fray, Munton (Manship), Story, Sandy (Price), Arnold, Lever (Harris).