Melton Mowbray kept themselves in the title hunt thanks to a superb display of resilience and spirit at third-placed Saffron on Tuesday evening.
Joint managers Matt Curtis and Cliff Thornton took just 11 senior players to Cosby with Palfreyman, Stainsby, Stapleton and Williamson all missing.
Mowbray also had to start without leading scorer Aaron Black who made the dash from a parents evening to arrive at half-time.
Despite the setbacks, the visitors started strongly against a Saffron side which had lost just four times in the league prior to kick-off and scored a staggering 126 goals.
The home keeper was forced into action to flick Adam Bishop’s half-volley over the bar before Bishop’s goalbound 30-yard lob hit a divot and bounced wide.
The striker deservedly found the net after 25 minutes when he placed a 25-yard free kick over the wall and into the corner of the net. David Hazeldine had two efforts cleared off the line, and Jack Baker was also denied.
But Saffron ended the half strongly, and pressured the visitors, but aside from a good save from Richard Cragg, Melton’s defence frustrated the home attack, with John Love and Kieran Clayton on top form.
As in he first half, Melton came out of the blocks quicker after the break, and Aidan Black had a good chance when one-on-one with the keeper, but overran the ball.
And Hazeldine ensured the double over Saffron 10 minutes in when he ran on to Baker’s through ball and crashed home a half-volley from 20 yards.
Curtis said: “As a team we responded and worked hard for one another. It was a pleasure to watch.
“Sileby were all there ready to go out after the match to celebrate winning the title, but we’ve put the pressure back on them to get a point against St Andrew’s.”
The win guarantees Melton second spot, but their title hopes still rely on Sileby losing their final match at home to St Andrew’s Reserves on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the re-arranged date of Melton’s postponed fixture with Kirby Muxloe Reserves is to be settled next Tuesday.
Mowbray have appealed for a walkover after Kirby failed to respond to requests to play the match last Friday.