MIDDLEWICH reopened the Mid Cheshire League title issue on Saturday - and now Barnton dare not make another mistake.
They and Poynton are the biggest threat, but if Barnton win all their remaining games, they will be crowned for an eighth successive year.
The visitors took the lead in the 12th minute when a corner was not cleared. Ryan Broadhead headed the ball back into the danger zone and Rob Hopley stabbed it home.
Barnton came close to an immediate equaliser. Dave Murray put Chris Gehgan clear and his shot was well saved by Paul Simpson, who happens to live in a house adjoining Barnton's ground.
The equaliser came on the half-hour mark. Murray's quick throw caught out the Middlewich defence and Clint Burton went through and tucked the ball neatly past Simpson.
In the second period, both sides missed chances - Graham Kay saw two headers cleared off the line and Burton and Gehgan missed glorious opportunities at the other end - before the killer goal. A free header from Kay was well saved by Richie Mottram, but Joey Roberts was handy to tap in the rebound.
Controversy struck in the 75th minute when Gehgan intercepted a back pass and he found the net, only for a linesman, believing he had been put through by a team-mate, to cancel out the goal. Les Miranda hit a post as Middlewich went forward again.
In Division Two, LOSTOCK GRALAM crashed 6-0 at Trafford Res and WINSFORD RES were thumped 7-3 at home to Malpas, but WITTON ALBION RES won 4-1 at Cheadle Town Res.
MIDDLEWICH remain top of the Reserves Division after beating Poynton 2-1.
Saturday: Division One - Crewe v Middlewich, Daten v Barnton; Two - Curzon Ashton Res v Winsford Res, Witton Res v Lostock Gralam; Reserves - Barnton v Rylands, Garswood v Middlewich; Wednesday, Division One - Barnton v Knutsford. A goal by Gary Nelson was not enough to save WINNINGTON AVENUE RES from defeat in the quarter-finals of the Crewe & East Cheshire Inter-League Cup, his team losing 4-1 at home to Bollington Athletic Reserves.
In the Crewe & District League, Winsford IPC registered only their third win in 15 games, 5-3 at bottom club Bunbury. Their marksmen were Mark Lightburn (2), Tony Harrison, Craig Allman and David Lloyd.
IPC face a tough task at leaders Alsager Faculty on Saturday in the Arthur Cooke Trophy semi-final. Avenue go to Bentley in the Crewe League.