Exeter City overcame the first-half dismissal of 16-goal leading scorer Jamie Cureton to claim a resilient 1-0 win at Wycombe Wanderers, with a Kortney Hause own goal late in yesterday's game all that separated the two sides.
Cureton was given a straight red card for petulantly kicking the Blues' defender Anthony Stewart five minutes before half-time, but his team-mates dug deep and defended stoutly to provide the backbone for an eighth away win of the npower League Two campaign.
The Grecians' defenders were terrific throughout and, behind them, Artur Krysiak maintained his superb recent form with a clean-sheet and a penalty save when the scores were level at 0-0.
It was by far the most memorable game of football ever seen, but that will matter little to the victors, who moved to within two points of the play-offs with this win.
The Grecians made one change to the side held by Barnet last time out. Cureton returned for the injured Liam Sercombe, while Tommy Doherty was named among the substitutes on his return to one of his past clubs.
City started well and sprayed the ball around at will, but the first chance of the game fell to Wycombe captain Stuart Lewis. His long-range effort cleared the stand housing around 300 travelling fans.
City's first attempt came from a corner, which was cleared as far as Jimmy Keohane. He lobbed the ball high into the air and Wycombe goalkeeper Jordan Archer made a hash of his catch under pressure from John O'Flynn and Cureton, but managed to grasp the loose ball in the nick of time.
City defender Steve Tully was booked for the slightest of tugs on Joel Grant's shirt, but Krysiak bravely came and took Spring's free-kick, taking a nasty whack in the process, which was missed by the referee.
Grant certainly looked lively for the Chairboys and, on 20 minutes, he crossed for Matt McClure, who skied a shot high from the winger's cross.
The home side were not afraid to get stuck in and Jo Kuffour and Lewis were cautioned in quick succession after ill-timed challenges. But Exeter continued to play the better football and one sweeping move led to Keohane being brought down 25 yards from goal. It was a promising position, but Alan Gow fired the free-kick high over the bar.
The game burst into life five minutes before half-time when Cureton chased a lost cause and inexplicably kicked out at Stewart. It was seen by the linesman, who attracted the referee's attention and he was left with no option but to show the red card.
The inevitable reshuffle saw Gow switch to the right wing and O'Flynn play as a lone striker as City went to a 4-4-1 formation. However, Wycombe never looked like scoring in the first 45 minutes and the half-time break gave the Grecians a chance to regroup.
Wycombe made a change by replacing former Torquay striker Kuffour with Dean Morgan, and the home side fashioned the first opening of the second period. Lewis caught Matt Oakley in possession and fed the ball wide to Bruno Andrade. His cross was headed goalwards by Morgan, but it was straight at Krysiak.
With their next attack, the Chairboys won a penalty. Grant again caused problems down the Exeter right and was brought down by Tully. Grant dusted himself down and took the kick himself, but it was poor and straight at Krysiak, who saved with ease.
The young winger also spurned a great chance on the rebound as the Chairboys cranked up the pressure on the Exeter defence.
The Grecians did manage one rare foray forward, but Scot Bennett hooked over the bar from Danny Coles' knock-down. However, when they did get into promising areas, the visitors were giving the ball away too cheaply.
Morgan's dire free-kick hit the foot of the Exeter wall and Spring lashed the rebound so far wide, it went out for a goal kick off the corner flag. It was that sort of game.
A Craig Woodman corner fell to Gow on the edge of the penalty box, but his poked effort drifted narrowly over the crossbar, while Gow almost fashioned a chance for Coles after a typically mazy run.
Wycombe managed to clear in time, though, as City found decent opportunities hard to come by.
Michael Harriman, who signed for the club earlier yesterday from Queen's Park Rangers, came on for his Wycombe debut, but, with seven minutes remaining, the Grecians went in front.
Gow's lobbed ball forward found O'Flynn in the inside-left position and he drilled a low shot goalwards. Jordan Archer saved well, but, as the ball ran loose, young Hause could only bundle it over the goal line for an unfortunate own goal.
O'Flynn could have made it 2-0 moments later, but was denied by some frantic Wycombe defending before Krysiak pulled off a brilliant stop to deny Stewart. That was as close as the home side came as the Grecians held firm for a first-ever win at Adams Park.