Boston United kept their Vanarama North play-off hopes alive following a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Hednesford Town.
Goals from Carl Piergianni and Dayle Southwell well and truly ripped up the form book as the Pilgrims earned a rare away victory at the division’s in-form outfit.
The result sees United move to within five points of their third-placed rivals, with a game in hand.
And although the Pilgrims hardly had things their own way, they left Keys Park with those all-important points.
United approached the match with more confidence that the previous season’s 4-2 defeat at Hednesford.
There were no suspensions, no on-the-bus illnesses and no one-hit wonders such as Brad Gascoigne, Dan Pritchard and Pa Sulay Njie - all drafted in at 24 hours’ notice just to ensure the Pilgrims had enough players to honour their fixture.
In fact, it was far from a rag-tag and patched-up team which ran out of the tunnel as Boston only made one change to the side which thumped Harrogate Town 5-2 seven days earlier.
Centre back Zak Mills returned from his Achilles injury, replacing Nicky Walker as Dennis Greene opted for a marginally more defensive starting XI to face third-placed Town, who had won seven and drawn one of their past eight Vanarama North matches at home prior to kick off.
The Pitmen set the early standards with two close calls - Marvin Robinson’s low strike bringing out a good stop from Max Stryjek and Richard Batchelor putting a free header over the bar after connecting with Glenn Walker’s free kick.
But against the run of play it was the Pilgrims - who didn’t have a single effort on target against Town in their 2-0 defeat at home earlier this season - who took the lead in the ninth minute through the most direct of routes.
Mills’ long throw from the right-hand side was met by Carl Piergianni, who powered his header low and hard beyond Dan Crane from eight yards out.
But in this game of throw-ins, Town were level in the 25th minute from a carbon copy goal.
This time it was Ben Baily who chucked a long ball into the penalty area, where Robinson muscled himself into the right position to beat Stryjek.
As the hosts looked to take the lead, Baily didn’t get enough purchase on his 20-yard volley and United’s Polish stopper comfortably gathered.
Walker then tried his luck with a low left-footed strike after cutting in from the right wing, but his powerful effort zipped the wrong side of the upright.
As the half came to a close United earned one final sight of goal.
Kaine Felix’s pace allowed him to burst down the left wing but, as his deep cross looked destined for the head of Mark Jones, up popped Kyle Dixon to nod wide.
After the re-start Stryjek was again on hand to keep Boston in the contest, doing superbly to hold onto Baily’s powerful header, following that up with another top stop as he grasped Tom Thorley’s free kick.
But the Pilgrims refused to hand over the advantage and continued to create opportunities of their own.
Kyle Dixon’s free kick caused confusion in the Hednesford ranks, but when Mills’ looping header dropped it fell wide of the far post.
However, United restored their lead when Dayle Southwell finished off a superb team move in the 63rd minute.
Dixon spotted Jones’ run into the penalty area and slipped him in, only for the striker to find Southwell with a superb reverse pass.
Two touches later and Southwell was celebrating his 24th goal of the season following a low open-footed finish which beat Crane’s dive.
Southwell had a golden chance to stretch the Pilgrims’ lead as his mazy and determined run saw him beat two opposing defenders before rounding Crane, but his final touch took the ball into the side netting.
And as Hednesford pushed on Felix broke clear on goal, only to be denied by the legs of Crane, who did well to bloke the effort.
At the death United rode their luck as Hurst somehow hacked well over from close range and Piergianni didn’t concede a penalty when he appeared to handle in the penalty area.
But that wasn’t dampening the spirits of those who made the journey from Boston.
That was just the sixth away win of the season.
HEDNESFORD: Crane, Hurst, Walker, Bailey, Campion, Thorley, Osborne, Todd (Diggin 75), Robinson (Rushton 56), Thomas, Batchelor (Kerry 68); Subs (not used): Strain, Westwood.
UNITED: Styjek, Marrs, Steer, Roberts, Garner, Piergianni, Felix, Dixon, Southwell (Walker 88), Jones (Newsham 90), Mills; Subs (not used): Hollingsworth, Saebe, Price.
Ref: A. Scregg.