Jordan Lever’s doubled fired Melton Town to a derby double over Holwell Sports on a scorching bank holiday afternoon at Welby Road.
Michael Stevenson gave Holwell an early lead before a much-changed Melton replied with two goals in each half, and Mo Matangi to grabbed a late consolation to give the scoreline a less harsh look.
Despite the gulf in points and places between the sides in Division One, Holwell gave as good as they got for long periods, particularly for the first hour, but Town created the clearer chances and put enough of them away.
But it would be an afternoon of mixed emotions as Melton’s title challenge was finally extinguished, with rivals Anstey and Lutterworth both recording wins to take the shootout into the final day.
Town pinned Holwell back initially as they searched for another early goal, but forced into several changes of personnel, they struggled for fluency as passes went astray.
And it was the hosts who had their noses in front after eight minutes, triggered by Stevenson.
His short pass on the edge of the box found Matangi who shrugged off a challenge and weighted a return pass inside for Stevenson who had time to place a shot into the left corner.
Melton continued to be frustrated, and the hosts looked to take advantage, working the ball patiently through the middle with Mike Hendey.
Matangi had penalty appeals waved away when his cross hit Callum Westwood’s arm and within a few minutes Town were level through a moment of individual quality from Lever.
The winger received a high cross-field ball and set off down the right, cutting back inside and lashing a shot inside Challis’ left-hand post.
Holwell continued to see their share of possession with Matangi sending a half-volley bobbling wide and causing a few nervous moments through the set-piece.
Neither keeper was seriously tested for much of the first half, but almost out of nowhere, Melton had the lead, seven minutes before the break, when Lever played a dangerous ball into the box. Reeve’s swing missed its connection, but the ball found Robbie Parsons who was given space and time to place a clinical low finish.
Kyle Reek almost made it 3-1 against his old side on the stroke of half-time when he cut in and curled an effort just past the far post.
And seven minutes after the break, Town did have their two-goal cushion when Lever again found himself cutting back inside and bearing down on goal.
With two well-placed team-mates calling for the ball, Lever instead placed a fine finish across Challis and into the far corner.
Melton gradually turned the screw, but a well-worked break involving Josh Clark and Stevenson sent Shaun Smith steaming forward only for his shot to be deflected wide.
Owen Storey bent a delightful pass to put Lever through again, but Challis again timed his run out of goal well to make the block.
Reeve then headed Tom Rigby’s good cross against the bar, but Town’s leading scorer finally celebrated a goal with 12 minutes left, outmuscling three Holwell players before smashing in a finish from the edge of the box.
Holwell looked to be wilting under the pressure and the blistering heat, but responded almost immediately when Matangi turned in a corner at the near post for a goal his effort and endeavour deserved.
There was still time for a final flurry of chances, with Reeve hitting the outside of a post from an acute angle before Kadeem Price’s precise pass took Lever beyond David Hazeldine, but Challis kept out the hat-trick attempt with his legs.
Melton will now finish the season third, regardless of the result of their final match at home to Aylestone Park on Saturday.
Defeats for their fellow strugglers mean 16th-placed Holwell are all but guaranteed to finish outside of the bottom three.
They host Luttterworth Athletic on the final Saturday of an absorbing season.
Holwell: B. Challis, D. Hazeldine, J. Clark, I. Bitmead, R. Dunlop, L. Peberdy, Mike Hendey, Matt Hendey, M. Matangi, M. Stevenson (M. Lowe 90), S. Smith (C. O’Grady 65). Subs not used: O. Blair, S. Fenwick, R. Cragg.
Melton: R. Peet, K. Reek, T. Rigby, C. Westwood (A. Horobin 63), C. Hibbitt, L. Hammond (J. Hill 45), O. Storey, N. Arnold, M. Reeve, R. Parsons (K. Price 80), J. Lever. Sunb not used: J. Stevenson.