A late penalty helped Melton RFC finally see off the challenge of Midlands One East bottom side Market Rasen and Louth.
Melton travelled into Lincolnshire for another important league fixture against a side without a win this campaign.
And perhaps it was this factor which led the hosts to raise their game significantly and for Melton not to be at their best when it really mattered.
The visitors began brightly enough with a succession of penalties in their favour which finally paid off when a clever miss-pass in midfield gave Harvey Green just enough room to squeeze in at the corner with a smartly-taken try.
Market Rasen would not roll over that easily, though, as they pressed for a response, and when a quick tap penalty caught Melton’s defence napping, only Chris Rose’s crunching tackle prevented a certain try.
A resulting penalty for offside was pulled just wide, but the hosts maintained the pressure and the scrum-half, who had a fine afternoon, again caught Melton’s defence flat-footed with a neat chip and chase.
Thankfully Green had spotted the danger and got back just in time to stifle the threat.
Melton have been used to having their own way in the scrum for most of their games, but the Rasen front row more than held their own in the set piece.
Only well-worked loose support play gave the visitors the upper hand, and a break by Dan Wakefield saw Kieron Stone in close support.
He had a lot to do, but powered over under the posts with defenders trailing in his wake. Matt Cox added the simple conversion for a nervy half-time lead of 12-0.
The second half saw Melton rush far too often in their efforts to keep the ball in play and attack at every opportunity.
It was a commendable effort, but failed to pay dividends, epitomised by an attack which broke down in midfield after poor passing which was not sharp enough.
Rasen hacked on and quick hands gave them a soft converted try under the posts which narrowed the gap sufficiently to give the hosts renewed heart.
It got even better for the home side when a silly penalty was conceded in front of the posts and the hosts were suddenly just two points adrift.
Instead of ensuring they kept the ball tight when required, Melton sat back too often as Rasen looked to build the pressure.
A smartly-taken move from a scrum in midfield saw young home fly-half spot half a gap, accelerating through, and his pace gave his winger enough room to crash over.
The well-struck conversion gave the hosts a 17-12 lead.
Marcus Badham rallied the team as they attempted to claw back the deficit, and Adam Woolley was a constant threat out wide, but never received the ball with enough space to make it count.
Rasen defended well as Melton tried everything in attack, but it was Rose’s excellent charge down of a clearance kick which provided the score as he smartly took the awkward bounce and sprinted over for a try under the posts.
Cox’s conversion restored a narrow two point lead at 19-17.
Melton really needed some smart defending for the last quarter, but Rasen scented their chance of victory and poured forward in attack.
Leon Gormley and Ollie Circuit were outstanding in defence with resolute tackling, but it was to no avail as Badham conceded a penalty and an unfortunate yellow card for killing the ball.
Rasen kicked the penalty to give them a one-point advantage with little more than 10 minutes left on the clock.
It was nerve wracking for the travelling supporters as they encouraged Melton in every effort.
The pack pressed for the vital score with wave after wave of attacks, and with less than two minutes remaining, Rasen coughed up a penalty.
Cox slotted the kick from an awkward angle for a somewhat fortunate win.
Full credit to Market Rasen who belied their lowly position with a gutsy performance which had Melton rattled, but nevertheless grateful for their win on the journey home.
Another performance like that against Wellingborough at home on Saturday (kick-off 2.15pm) will not be good enough in the run-up to the Christmas break.
But Melton consolidated their league position with the result, moving up to ninth and 10 points clear of the bottom three.
Melton: K. Stone, M. Badham, C. Loveday, S. Badham, J. Long, L. Gormley, K. Bugby, D. Wakefield, C. Rose, M. Cox, H. Wood, H. Green, O. Circuit, A. Woolley, J. White, K. Radford.