WHAT a difference a week makes.
After being so disappointingly knocked out of the FA Cup by Gravesend at home seven days earlier, Mark Wright described Chester's first-half Deva performance against Barnet as 'as good as anything we've ever played' as he saw his side open up a two-point lead at the top of the table.
And, how appropriate that the decisive City goal was among the best at the Deva for some years. Alex Smith's 25-yard pearler was not only a wonderful strike but it climaxed an excellent move involving almost half the team.
Wright was forced to make three changes from the side that won had won at Morecambe. Ian McCaldon (groin) and Phil Bolland (ankle) were unfit while Paul Carden was suspended. They were replaced by Wayne Brown, Scott Guyett and Shaun Carey respectively.
It was a game that began rather disjointedly with three long stoppages in play, following injuries to Jon Brady, Daryl Clare and Carl Ruffer.
But the Blues gradually built up a head of steam and, with the home fans really getting behind their team towards the break, the Barnet defence always looked likely to succumb to the pressure.
Ruffer twice went close with headers from Ben Davies corners, before the goal arrived with what was the last kick of the first half.
Guyett - making his first start of an injury-plagued season - Brady, Davies and Carey were all involved in patient build-up play down
the right before the ball was played in to Smith on his home debut.
The former Reading and Port Vale man picked the ball up 30 yards from goal, advanced five yards and then unleashed a wonderful left-foot screamer that left Barnet keeper Shane Gore grasping at thin air for a goal worthy of winning any game.
The visitors, urged on by the theatrical touchline antics of boss Martin Allen, came more into the game in the second period, but the almost non-existent threat of Guiliano Grazioli, the Conference's top scorer with 17 goals, was testament to the excellent defensive work of Ruffer, Guyett and Danny Collins.
'The back three were first-class,' said Wright. Indeed, the City boss heaped praise on the entire team. 'I was more than pleased with every single player,' he added.
Only time will tell just how important this win may turn out to be, but it certainly did no harm to the side's championship ambitions, giving them a three-point lead over their North London rivals.
Wright said: 'We've got a lot of hard games coming up, but the confidence and the atmosphere in the dressing room is so upbeat it's untrue.
'We all know how good we can be and in this game we showed everybody exactly what we can achieve. My goal is to try and get us out of this league. And if we can achieve that, it will be great.
'There's a long way to go but what we know is that we are sitting top of the pile and if we keep winning games, then it's job done.'
Chester: Brown, Collins, Ruffer, Guyett, Davies, Carey, Smith (Twiss 89), McIntyre, Brady, Stamp, Clare (Harris 89).
Subs: Rapley, Foster, Heard. Booked: Davies, Carey. Barnet: Gore, Hendon, Plummer, Maddix, King, Hatch (Williams 51), Yakabu, Strevens, Gamble, Beadle (Roach 74), Grazioli.
Subs: Millard, Rooney, Hogg. Referee: Robert Stonebridge (Derbyshire).