Brackley Town took a giant leap towards securing a play-off place after a scrappy 1-0 win over second-placed Guiseley at St James’ Park.
Owen Story’s 83rd minute strike was the difference in a cagey encounter between two well-matched sides.
Guiseley enjoyed more of the ball but Saints had the better chances and could have gone into the break three ahead but for some poor finishing.
The second half proved to be a timid affair with the match poised to end in a tame goalless draw until Story’s cool finish.
The win for Brackley – which completes a league double over Guiseley this season – takes them to within touching distance of a play-off spot following defeats for rivals FC Halifax and Harrogate Town. It also means that Chester FC clinch the Blue Square North title after their 1-0 win against Boston.
It was Brackley who started the stronger and they should have been 1-0 up within 60 seconds but Izak Reid blasted over when just four yards out.
The home side continued to dominate and keep Guiseley penned inside their own penalty area in the opening exchanges but Reid’s miss was the only clear-cut chance created.
Guiseley eventually settled and began to see more of the ball with a sustained period of pressure culminating in a Kevin Holsgrove effort that sailed narrowly wide of the home goal.
The match became more and more scrappy as it progressed but it was Brackley who looked the more likelier to break the deadlock and they had a golden opportunity to do so when Glenn Walker broke the down the left and bisected the visiting defence with a precise through ball to Eddie Odhiambo, who laid it off to Winters and he had time to set himself before firing a low shot towards the corner that was expertly saved by Steve Drench.
The Guiseley goalkeeper was then again called into action moments later as Marvin Robinson found himself clean through but Drench was quick off his line to deny the striker.
Holsgrove responded for Guiseley with a mazy run and shot that Billy Turley had to be alert to before Jack Rea again forced Turley to save well.
The first half ended goalless with Saints ruing missed chances before an extremely scrappy second half with both side lacking fluency, though Reid twice went close for Brackley but both times he fired inches wide.
As the game looked to be heading towards timid goalless draw, Story – who had just come on 30 seconds previous – popped up inside the penalty area and coolly slotted home from eight yards with his first touch to put Saints ahead.
Story had another chance to seal the points moments later but he shot straight at Dench. It mattered little, though, as Saints held out for a vital three points.
Brackley Town: Turley (c), Clifton (Story 82), Sharpe, Austin, McDonald, Reid, Odhiambo, Sandy, Walker, Winters (Diggin 78), Robinson (Louis 78).
Subs not used: Nisevic, Corcoran
Guiseley: Drench, Hardy, Meynell, Pearson, Ellis, Bower (c), Rea, Holdsworth (Rothery 72), Wilson (Marsh 67), Holsgrove (Walshaw 67), Carole.
Subs not used: McWilliams, Giles.
Referee: Paul Harris