Brett Solkhon’s second-half strike gave Kettering Town a priceless 1-0 victory over title rivals Aylesbury at Latimer Park.
The Poppies legend added another crucial goal to his collection when he volleyed home James Jepson’s free-kick in what proved to be the decisive moment of a real battle.
As expected, the conditions were tough, the pitch was a bog.
But, to a man, the Poppies stood up to the challenge in front of them and, in the end, probably just about deserved a vital success.
They now lead the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central table by five points with a game in hand after second-placed Bedworth United were held to a 1-1 draw by Barton Rovers.
Was this the key day? Time will tell but Kettering really are in control of things now.
Joint-bosses Scott Machin and Thomas Baillie restored both Jason Lee and top scorer Dubi Ogbonna to the starting line-up.
But the Poppies really struggled to get going early on. Aylesbury were first to most loose balls and were able to knock the ball around with a bit of freedom.
Having said that, it was Kettering who had the first chance when Josh Moreman blasted wide when Tommy Hull’s far-post cross fell to him.
Steve Kinniburgh showed good strength to see the ball out of play after Jeanmal Prosper had a sight of goal while Richard Knight’s first save came when he got down well to stop Bradley Watkins’ shot from 12 yards.
But chances were few and far between after that with Gary Mulligan’s header being easily held by James Weatherill before Moreman blasted over the bar after being played in by Elliot Sandy.
The Poppies started the second half with more purpose and James Clifton saw a header from a Jepson corner scrambled off the line.
But it was another Jepson set-piece that led to the breakthrough on 54 minutes.
The midfielder whipped in a free-kick from the left and Solkhon made no mistake with a volley that gave Weatherill no chance.
The second period continued to be a real battle on the tough pitch and Moreman saw a shot blocked on the turn before Aylesbury started to grow back into it.
They had plenty of possession but were unable to test Knight and it was Kettering who nearly nicked another with five minutes to go.
Moreman’s original shot was cleared as far as Jepson and his long-range effort was hacked clear by Kyle Anthony.
There was to be one final chance for Aylesbury as Prosper headed narrowly wide from a corner deep into stoppage-time.
But that was the final opportunity and Latimer Park rose pretty much as one to greet the final whistle.
A true battle was won by the Poppies on what could prove to be a pivotal day.
Poppies: Knight; Clifton, Solkhon, Lee, Kinniburgh; Sandy, Jepson (sub Gooding, 90 mins), Hull, Moreman (sub Hall, 90 mins); Mulligan; Ogbonna (sub Kolodynski, 83 mins). Subs not used: Richard-Noel, Curtis.
Aylesbury: Weatherill; Prosper, Anthony, Stevens (sub Baker, 75 mins), Murphy; Price, Logie (sub French, 81 mins), D Haule, A Goss (sub O’Toole, 71 mins); Wadkins, B Haule. Subs not used: Bateman, L Goss.
Referee: Mark Wardell.
Goal: Solkhon (54 mins, 1-0).
Bookings: Prosper, Hull (both fouls), B Haule (dissent),