THE Blues hit the top of the table for the first time this season with a third victory over the Greater Manchester outfit in as many months.
A stunning Liam Brownhill strike was good enough to knock neighbours Northwich Victoria off the summit but Neil Young’s men, who are now unbeaten in 25 home matches, made their supporters sweat with a nervy second-half performance.
Chester, who knocked Ashton out of the FA Trophy last month and won September’s league meeting between the sides, bossed proceedings before the break but they had to wait until the 38th minute to open the scoring.
It was definitely worth the wait, though, as Brownhill opened his account for the club with a goal as good as any seen at the Exacta Stadium this season.
The right-back picked up possession 25 yards from goal and unleashed a superbly-struck angled drive that flew across the surface and into the bottom corner.
It was no more than the Blues deserved for a dominant first-half display in which James Ellison hit the post and headed wide from virtually on the goal-line after Georg Horan flicked on a Matty McGinn long throw.
With Alex Brown at the heart of everything Chester did well, Michael Powell also went close before Brownhill broke struggling Ashton’s resistance.
But he did not break their spirit and the visitors would have equalised seven minutes after the restart had it not been for John Danby.
A spectator up until that point, Danby showed first-rate reactions to keep out a close-range Sam Madeley header that was destined for the top corner.
Young responded by bringing on Iain Howard and Michael Wilde but the hosts continued to live dangerously and the tension around the ground heightened when captain Horan went off injured.
Wilde came within inches of easing his side’s nerves when he headed a Brown cross just wide before Howard raced the full length of the field and saw his right-effort saved.
Chester: Danby, Brownhill, Taylor, Horan (Smith 73), McGinn, Sarcevic, Powell, Brown, Holden (Howard 57), Ellison (Wilde 62), McNeil. Subs: Holt, Wright.
Goals: Brownhill 38.
Ashton: Smith, Frost, Melling, Robinson, Roberts, Peers, Murphy, Smith (Bennett 65), Caldecott (Armadi 46), Madeley (Kosylo 71), Sansay. Subs: Rose, Lambert.
Referee: Philip Dermot (Wigan).