Runcorn 1, Blyth Spartans 0: MID-TABLE security has suddenly gone out of fashion - at least for this season.
Reshaping of the non-league game and the race to make the Conference North cut has by design made this a very strange campaign for Runcorn.
The cautious Linnets on Saturday chalked up their 50th point with another nailbiting victory.
But whereas, in any other season, safety would already be virtually guaranteed, Runcorn still have a lot of work to ensure they are one step below the Nationwide Conference in 2004-05.
With most teams in the UniBond League Premier Division having something to play for, every game is like a cup final or relegation dogfight and the nerves are really jangling.
At least Runcorn appear to have rediscovered one trend which seemed outmoded - winning home matches.
But this second Halton Stadium success in the last four attempts was too close for comfort. YThe relief in all quarters was clear as the Linnets belatedly came good for victory in what was a must-win game.
The three points were ultimately delivered on a wing and a prayer with 10 minutes left.
For only the second time in the match, Runcorn found some width to send in a cross from the right.
Chances had been so few - with Runcorn failing to commit enough men forward and find midfield thrust - that it was a case of hoping against hope that when they came, one would be taken.
Mike Garrity, who brought more vitality to Runcorn's play late on with his switch to his favoured central midfield position, had almost forced a breakthrough earlier in the second half.
But Chris Lightfoot's efforts to convert the then right wing-back's hanging cross were thwarted by superb Blyth defending at the far post.
But it was second time lucky. Paul Aldridge, who hasn't made much of an impact since arriving at the club, brought freshness as he succeeded Garrity out wide.
And when Dominic Morley threaded the ball between two defenders to release him, the midfieldman supplied the cross which helped turn a contest which could have easily gone the other way in Runcorn's favour.
If anything, it was over-hit but player-boss Lightfoot did well to win the ball at the far post - heading it inside for Ged Courtney to hit home a deflected shot.
Blyth had done as well as Runcorn in the first half. And with the home side struggling to get good field position with a largely defensive and static midfield, leaving their front two isolated, Spartans looked like getting an upper hand after half-time.
Before the break, Tony McMillan had been forced to react smartly to deny Gareth McAlindon as Keith Graydon opened up Runcorn's defence to leave his midfield colleague clear.
Earlier, in the 36th minute, Matthew Platt had created Runcorn's best opening for himself when he knocked the ball sweetly past visiting centre-back and skipper Richard Forster.
But his inexperience showed when he tried optimistically to beat Craig Turns at his near post.
Runcorn had flattered to deceive with their lively opening in a fits-and-starts performance. They continually frustrated with their reluctance to play the simple ball and respect possession.
Newcomer Anton Lally did as well as anyone in the 72 minutes he was on the field, showing awareness and strength in the tackle to break up the play.
But he may well have been feeling the effects of two games in five days after a longish lay-off.
He is perhaps too similar to skipper Morley for them to forge an effective partnership without someone just in front of them to do the legwork in support of the strikers.
All the same, seven points from three games in a week is a highly satisfactory return considering the Linnets were without the creative Matty McGinn for all those matches and charismatic striker Lee Kissock for the last two. RUNCORN: McMillan, Garrity, Ness, Nolan, Ellis, Spearritt, Lally (Aldridge 72), Morley, Rendell, Courtney, Platt (Lightfoot 54). Attendance: 182.