The meanest defence in the National League lived up to its reputation.
Chester FC were the better side for the majority of this cross-border derby with Wrexham but ended up coming away with nothing as the Dragons snatched a 1-0 success at the Swansway Chester Stadium.
Shaun Pearson’s header on 44 minutes proved the difference between the sides and sent the Dragons top.
But Chester hit the woodwork twice and had two strong shouts for penalaties waved away, and they just couldn’t find a way past the division’s best defence.
The better team lost and the Dragons did a number on the Blues, as ordinary as they were everywhere else but in defence, with Pearson and Smith superb.
Marcus Bignot had spoken in the week about the need for his players to feed off the atmosphere that the home fans would create - and they certainly delivered at their end with some vocal backing of the Blues in a near sell-out crowd at the Swansway Chester Stadium.
Bignot made one change to the Chester side that battled back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Eastleigh on Saturday, with Alex Lynch returning to the starting line up following an injury that sidelined him for the trip to Hampshire at the weekend.
Dean Keates’ side came into the clash sitting in third place in the National League and knowing a win over the Blues would see them move to the summit of the division.
The tension was raised pre-match after the kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes with ‘congestion outside the ground’ cited as the reason, although a number of Wrexham coaches were understood to have been held up en route to the ground.
The game got underway at 8pm and it was Chester who looked to get on the front foot, starting the contest the brighter of the two sides.
It took only four minutes for them to ask questions of the Wrexham defence when a smart Andy Halls pass down the right freed Jordan Archer who touched past an onrushing Chris Dunn only for the ball to be hacked off the line by Manny Smith.
And Jordan Gough may feel he should have done better on seven minutes when he could only steer a header from a Lucas Dawson corner wide from 10 yards when well placed.
But Wrexham began to settle and found their shape and rhythm, with former Chester City striker Chris Holroyd causing problems with a jinking run into the area, only for his final touch to fail him and run into Lynch’s arms.
And Holroyd had a sight of goal on 16 minutes when a James Jennings pass down the left found the run of Holroyd, although thankfully he couldn’t get any power on an angled effort that went well wide.
Wrexham fans thought they had the opener on 24 minutes when Paul Rutherford - another one of the former Chester contingent in the Dragons squad - got to the byline to cut back where Holroyd slammed home. But their joy was short lived as the linesman rightly flagged for offside on Rutherford.
But Chester were dealt a massive blow on 26 minutes when Reece Hall-Johnson, so lively for the Blues since his arrival from Grimsby Town on loan, pulled up when chasing down Marcus Kelly after he picked up a loose Halls pass.
He went down clutching the back of his thigh with what looked like hamstring trouble and was immediately substituted with Paul Turnbull coming on. Hall-Johnson hobbled off the pitch in plenty of discomfort.
Chester had to deal with some heavy pressure in the aftermath of Hall-Johnson’s substitution as they looked to reshuffle their pack, but they repelled the Dragons.
And on 36 minutes the Blues had what looked to be a stonewall penalty waved away by referee Thomas Bramall after Holroyd looked like he had handled in the area after a Lathaniel Rowe-Turner header. Television replays appeared to show that the referee got it wrong.
All square at the break would have been a fair reflection of the first half of a tight derby - but Wrexham had other ideas.
Rowe-Turner was penalised for a foul 30 yards out, allowing Kelly to whip in a fine cross into the six-yard box where Shaun Pearson was on hand to glance a header past the despairing dive of Lynch and into the back of the net just a minute before the end of normal time at the end of the first half. Cue delirium among the 1,200 travelling fans.
HALF TIME: CHESTER 0 WREXHAM 1
It was the Dragons who fashioned the first chance of the second half when Akil Wright drove from midfield before letting off a low effort from 20 yards that Lynch gathered.
But Wrexham were fortunate to keep 11 men on the pitch minutes later when Sam Wedgbury escaped with a yellow following a reckless tackle on Turnbull when chasing a loose ball. It was a decision that was met with much chagrin from the home faithful.
Chester were getting little change from the Wrexham defence and it wasn’t hard to see why they had shipped the fewest goals in the division, with Smith and Pearson rock solid at centre back.
But the Blues almost punctured the resistance of the home side on the hour mark when a throw-in to the byline was pulled back by Ross Hannah into the path of Dawson who crashed a first-time effort low off the post, with the Dragons clearing the danger.
Chester were enjoying a decent spell and Wrexham were sitting deeper, and it wasn’t long before the woodwork came to their rescue again on 65 minutes when James Akintunde, quite for much of the game, sprang to life and cut in from the left, riding a challenge before letting fly from 20 yards with his effort beating Dunn but thumping off the top of the crossbar and out to safety.
Chester were coming on strong while Wrexham, decidedly ordinary everywhere else but defence, were inviting pressure.
And Chester had another strong shout for a penalty waved away on 72 minutes when Rowe-Turner looked to have been hauled down in the box when attempting to reach a Gough cross.
In a rare foray forward Wrexham came close on 80 minutes when a corner from the right was floated and found the head of the ever-dangerous Pearson who connected, but Lynch watched it through a sea of bodies before gathering.
But Chester were still the dominant force but remained unable to pierce a staunch Dragons rearguard.
And they were left to rue their luck further on 83 minutes when Harry White, with his first touch since coming on as a substitute 60 seconds before, wasted a glorious chance to level when he nodded over from 10 yards from a pin-point Halls cross.
Astles came close with two minutes of added time left when he hooked a Turnbull ball into the area.
It just wasn’t happening for the Blues.
A defeat, yes, but another positive performance that suggests that a corner has been turned, although they need to start turning hard-luck stories into points.
It doesn’t make defeat to the old enemy any easier to take, though.
Chester: Lynch, Halls, Rowe-Turner, Astles, Hall-Johnson (Turnbull 26), Gough, James (Zanzala 88), Dawson, Akintunde (White 82), Hannah, Archer. Subs: Vaughan, Bell.
Wrexham: Dunn, Jennings (Carrington 54), Smith, Pearson, Wedgbury, Kelly (Mackreth 73), Wright, Roberts, Massanka (Boden 66), Holroyd, Rutherford. Subs: Dibble, Reid.
Goals: Pearson 44.
Referee: Thomas Bramall.
Chester star man: Ryan Astles.
Wrexham star man: Shaun Pearson.