WINSFORD turned in their best performance of the season to yank Padiham from second place and reoccupy the position themselves.
They emerged from an hour's heavy pressure to deliver two knockout blows with the two substitutions being behind the victory.
Strikers Rick Arnold and Leon Stur-ridge came off the bench to inspire United - Sturridge's winning goal was a beauty.
The home side created the first chance of the match when Craig Worthington's second-minute shot went high and wide and the visitors hit back causing panic via Chris Hutchinson's long throw and Rob Hopley's back header. The signs were good for an exciting encounter.
Goalkeeper Michael Langley, returning from a long injury, had been given the nod over Craig Clare and his first-half performance justified the selection as he made a series of fine saves, the first of these in the 11th minute when he beat the ball away when a goal looked a certainty.
On 23 minutes he made the save of the match when a long ball into the box looked to be heading for the top right corner but he stretched out and palmed the ball round the post with the home supporters already celebrating the goal to be.
Chris Melia's 43rd minute header from Mark Quinn's cross found the back of the net but he was adjudged offside.
Padiham piled on the pressure in the early stages of the second half and they took the lead when former Bury, North-wich and Rushden and Diamonds striker Gareth Seddon glanced a header just inside Langley's right-hand post.
Sturridge's introduction on the hour changed the course of the game as the home defenders suddenly found they were facing a player who was prepared to take them on using his strength and skill. His turn and shot on 68 minutes was straight at Batty, but it gave a warning of what was to come.
A minute later Winsford equalised. Hopley chased a ball far out on the left and Batty made the mistake of going with him. Hopley rounded the goal-keeper and his centre was spectacularly volleyed home by Arnold.
The Blues were now completely in control and long-distance shots by Hopley and Mark Quinn tested Batty. Melia should have done better with a 72nd-minute effort that went over the bar but the 86th minute saw Sturridge convert what may well be the goal of the season.
Gathering the ball just inside the opponent's half he passed two defenders and with everyone looking for a through ball he struck a 30-yard shot with the outside of his foot that looked to be going well wide of the far post, but such was the swerve on the ball that it found the bottom left-hand corner of the net leaving a shocked Batty rooted to his line. The Blues easily negotiated the closing minutes against dispirited opponents and indeed looked the more likely to score.
UNITED: Clare; Drohan (Sturridge 60), Chambers, Marsh, Stanton; Melia (Parkinson 89), Gill, Quinn, Wellstead; Hutchinson (Arnold 63), Hopley.
Att: 160 Star Man: Leon Sturridge, for that goal.
Next Best: Michael Langley Team Rating: 5 Match Rating: 5