Kettering Town made it four home wins in a row as they beat Calor League Division One Central leaders Dunstable Town 2-0 at Latimer Park.
The Poppies produced a decent display to ensure the table-toppers were made to look very ordinary on what proved to be a fairly comfortable afternoon.
They never really looked in trouble after Henry Eze had fired them in front after just five minutes before Dubi Ogbonna rounded things off late on.
And it proved to be another crucial victory for Dean Thomas and his men as Barton Rovers were beaten 2-0 at Aylesbury, meaning they were able to close the gap between themselves and the play-off places to three points with five games to go.
Thomas reverted to a 4-5-1 formation with Jonathon Thorpe and Elliot Sandy supporting lone frontman Josh Moreman from the wide areas while Ogbonna was named on the bench.
The only absentee was Tommy Hull, who was serving a one-match ban, although he has also been nursing a groin strain.
After a period of silence that was excellently observed by the second highest crowd of the season at Latimer Park this season to remember the victims of Hillsborough, the ground was rocking after just five minutes as the Poppies stormed into an early lead.
James Jepson whipped in a corner from the right and Eze rose to head it towards goal. That effort was blocked but the centre-half made no mistake as he hammered home the rebound.
The Poppies’ flying start caused real problems for the visitors and their frustration was summed up when Nathan Frater was, perhaps, slightly fortunate to escape with just a booking when he chopped down Moreman with an ugly and late challenge.
Such was Kettering’s early dominance, it took Dunstable 21 minutes to force Alastair Worby into his first save and that was fairly routine as he held on to Danny Murphy’s free-kick.
But it was the hosts who continued to force the issue and Andy Gooding probably should have done better than to scoop the ball over the bar on the turn after an excellent run and cross from captain Steve Kinniburgh.
The second half started quietly but Dunstable looked a lot brighter and Frater fired over after being played in on the left side of the penalty area.
The Poppies were forced into a reshuffle when Dan Crowie limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury. It meant James Clifton switching into the middle of the defence and Jonathon Thorpe moving to right-back as Ogbonna came on to replace the centre-back.
A real edginess began to grow around the ground as Kettering’s passes started to go astray and Dunstable almost drew level just past the hour.
Lee Roache did well to skip into the area and his low cross was met by the outstretched boot of Gooding, who forced his own goalkeeper Worby into a decent save as he turned it round the post.
But while their play was scrappy, the Poppies didn’t give much away and they stunned the leaders with a second with seven minutes to go.
Moreman set off on a driving run down the right and his shot across goal looked to be heading in. But Ogbonna, in true predatory style, was there to finish it off from a couple of yards.
Moreman so nearly got the goal his energetic display deserved when he thundered a shot off the outside of the post after being played in by Ogbonna.
But another wasn’t needed as the Poppies and their fans were able to celebrate another home win.
This one was significant, however, as the overall display ensured the league leaders were made to look very ordinary.
Five games to go, 15 points to be gained. Kettering seem to have a second wind. The play-offs may well beckon...
Poppies: Worby; Clifton, Eze, Crowie (sub Ogbonna, 59 mins), Kinniburgh; Thorpe, Gooding, Jepson, Logan, Sandy (sub Fuller, 85 mins); Moreman. Subs not used: Hamilton, Osei-Siribour, McAlindon.
Dunstable: Head; Jibodu, Bruce, Leach, Murphy; Frater (sub Marsh, 77 mins), Anthony, Watkins, Cashman; Roache, Dixon (sub Burnett, 55 mins). Subs not used: Plowright, Fontanelle, Pickering.
Referee: Scott Postin.
Goals: Eze (5 mins, 1-0), Ogbonna (83 mins, 2-0).
Bookings: Frater, Clifton (both fouls), Gooding (unsporting behaviour).