LEE TRUNDLE handed Wrexham a Second Division lifeline as Denis Smith marked his return to the Potteries in style.
Smith was not expecting the warmest of welcomes in this part of the region after making more than 460 appearances for Port Vale's city rivals Stoke during a 15-year playing career.
But Smith was still smiling after Trundle scored twice in the final five minutes to inflict Vale's first home defeat since a 2-0 reverse to Cardiff City last October.
Trundle kept his cool to dispatch an 85th-minute spot-kick awarded for a foul on him by Neil Brisco, although Vale goalkeeper Mark Goodlad almost pushed it wide rather than into the corner of the net.
Two minutes later Trundle sent a soaring header past Goodlad after substitute Paul Barrett had galloped down the right flank.
It was an incredible finale to an enthralling contest and, although Northampton's victory at Blackpool keeps Wrexham in the bottom four, this victory will give them the inner belief they can survive.
"We've got to win a few more yet but this was very pleasing," said Smith after Wrexham had leapfrogged Bournemouth to climb one place to fourth from bottom.
"We came under a lot of pressure at the start of the second half and I didn't think we got out well enough. But we changed the system and it worked.
"The back four did well, the mid-field did a lot better than Saturday and hopefully Lee's two goals will get him going. It's been a long time coming for him this season but hope-fully he's getting there."
Smith shuffled the pack after the miserable home defeat to Chesterfield with no fewer than five changes from Saturday. Wales Under-21 goal-keeper David Walsh came in for Marius Rovde with the giant Norwegian suffering from hamstring trouble.
Dan Bennett was handed his league debut in a defence that featured the recalled Kevin Sharpe at left-back - both were superb throughout - while Edwards and Trundle also returned to provide greater forward penetration.
Wrexham's fresh appearance was reinforced by the presence of 16-year-old defender Craig Morgan - a first-year scholar at The Racecourse academy - on the bench.
The changes had a positive effect as Wrexham stroked the ball around with purpose and they created a golden opportunity inside three minutes.
Slick passing set up overlapping right-back Jim Whitley and Stephen Thomas's far post header might have nestled in the net but for a last-ditch deflection.
Thomas, clearly with a taste for goal, tried a speculative effort and the ball rolled agonisingly wide for Wrexham when Darren Ferguson's free-kick struck Wayne Phillips inside the six-yard area.
Vale were a pale shadow of the side that had won seven and drawn one to earn Brian Horton the Second Division manager of the month award for February.
Walsh was rarely troubled on his first start since December 8 with Vale's solitary on-target attempt in the opening period a tame Marc Bridge Wilkinson header.
Wrexham were growing in confidence and Edwards didn't need a second invitation after 36 minutes to sprint through after Sagi Burton had missed Walsh's long clearance.
Goodlad had no chance with the powerful cross-shot but the goal-keeper excelled close to the interval with stops from Craig Faulconbridge and Trundle in the space of a minute.
With Horton's half-time words no doubt ringing in their ears, Vale stirred from their lethargy and Burton prodded Bridge-Wilkinson's corner forward for Sharpe to clear.
Walsh then produced a save from Stephen McPhee but 60 seconds later the striker showed strength to fend off Whitley and found the target.
Wrexham slowly drew Vale's sting and Smith showed his desire to take three points by sending on a third striker in the shape of Andy Morrell in the final 15 minutes.
Trundle rewarded that gamble and Wrexham still have genuine hope of avoiding the drop despite an end-of-season fixture list that contains the likes of Stoke, Brentford, Hudders-field and Cardiff.