Roy O’Donovan’s late goal secured a 10th straight home win for the Cobblers and powered them to third in the npower League Two table.
The Irish striker headed home Chris Hackett’s left-footed cross with just five minutes to go at Sixfields to seal successive 1-0 wins.
It looked like being a night of frustration for the home side, who struggled to find the necessary guile to break down an obdurate Torquay side.
But O’Donovan’s class told - the forward was a menace all evening with his movement and deserved to score the match-winning goal.
After just three minutes, O’Donovan served notice of his attacking intention and saw the whites of the goal posts when Ben Harding floated a cross in that required a late block from a defender to repel. Hackett reached the follow-up first but mishit his shot and it was smuggled away for a corner.
A combination of Clive Platt’s presence and O’Donovan’s persistence then provided a second sight of goal for the latter, former Sixfields loanee Michael Poke equal to it in the Torquay goal.
Platt then manufactured a chance for Ishmel Demontagnac to strike on the half-volley but that technique is a difficult one to execute, and the attempt fizzed wide.
The big striker was continually involved as the home side looked to press home an early advantage through their set plays, creating space for Ben Harding at a long throw only to see his effort smothered by Poke at close range.
Torquay’s threat was an intermittent one and they played in the manner of a side that would treat anything more than a defeat as a bonus.
O’Donovan started the second half with a new partner, Akinfenwa replacing the impressive Platt, and found himself in a scoring position almost immediately from a long throw but made a mess of the eventual finish.
Harding then saw a shot strike the foot of the post at the end of a counter-attack and Hackett saw an effort palmed away as the home side looked to increase the intensity.
They rode their luck on the hour mark when Clarke Carlisle appeared to haul down Elliot Benyon in the box but the referee, who had awarded free-kicks for even the most minor of indiscretions, waved the appeals away.
Devon-born Ben Tozer had the ball in the net soon after, heading in John Johnson’s cross, but had made his move a fraction too soon and the flag went up for offside.
Torquay grew in confidence as the game progressed and began to enjoy some half-chances of their own.
As the game reached its final five minutes the visitors must have thought they had done enough to take something from the game but O’Donovan had other ideas.
The Irish striker’s movement was good all game and almost deserved a goal on its own. It came late in the day, but could well prove to be crucial.
So could the late save by Nicholls to deny Benyon and the assistant’s flag that wiped out an excellent Rene Howe volley as Torquay looked to respond.
They did not have time to.
Cobblers: Nicholls, Johnson, Carlisle, Collins, Widdowson, Hackett, Tozer, Harding, O’Donovan, Platt
Subs: Akinfenwa (for Platt 46), Robinson (for Demontagnac 82), Cameron (for Hackett 87)
Not used: Snedker, Guttridge, Dias, Hornby
Torquay: Poke, Oastler, Nicholson, Saah, Mansell, Jarvis, Howe, MacDonald, Labadie, Chapell, Benyon
Subs: Bodin (for Chapell 69)
Not used: Downes, Leadbitter, Rice, Macklin, Craig, Yeoman
Torquay fans: 261