Crewe FC 2, Daten 1: A LAST-MINUTE winner from Daniel Athorn kept Crewe FC's survival bid on track at the Cumberland Arena on Saturday.
The central defender's back-post header sparked wild celebrations from his team-mates, who had dominated most of the game with Daten but had struggled to find the net.
The result means that Crewe, once 15 points adrift, have now clambered to within four points of safety in the Mid-Cheshire League Division One, and remain un-beaten this year.
Boss Ian O'Reilly admitted that when Athorn arrived to meet Liam O'Reilly's flick-on after an Alan Brown cross, it meant everything to the club.
He said: 'I was floating because a draw was just no good to us. We needed a win to drag them down with us. You could see the relief on the lads' faces. It was a great moment' He added: 'I felt we deserved it because, although they had 15 minutes in the first half when we came under a lot of pressure, we had been the better side.
'I can't remember them having a shot in the second half and Darren Vickers, Jon Dawson and Gareth Brookes had gone close. I thought we were going to run out of time.'
Crewe had started well and a header at the near post by Vickers had given them the lead after Dawson's pinpoint cross. But Daten equalised on the half-hour with an opportunist strike after a long ball down-field, and it took in-form keeper Steve Harding and the width of the crossbar to keep the scores even at the break.
The home side found chances easy to come by in the second half but could not find the killer touch. They received a boost when Daten had a man sent off for two bookable offences at the midway point.
But for the second game running, Crewe threw away the man advantage when Dawson was red carded 10 minutes later for haranguing the referee.
Although Vickers eventually popped up to grab maximum points, O'Reilly feels his men must become more disciplined if they are to have a large squad to choose from as the fixtures pile up at the end of the campaign.
He explained: 'Jon was stupid and was very apologetic in the changing room afterwards. I felt sorry for him because he is working ever so hard at the moment, but sendings off can cost us games.
'We can't afford to have players suspended at this end of the season. I don't think it was a dirty game but referees seem desperate to hand out cards, so we have to live with that.'
Crewe travel to face Rylands on Saturday, who were hammered 7-0 at Bollington Athletic.
Lee Westwood, Danny Massey, Steve Parker and Graham Taylor will return after suspensions, but (Liam) O'Reilly is banned and Wes Newton will replace the unavailable Harding in goal. nJimmy Costigan's two goals from the penalty spot in as many games were rare bright spots in a difficult week for Crewe FC Reserves.
A 4-1 midweek defeat to Billinge Reserves was not aided by the fact that three of the 11 players available were carrying knocks.
A 7-1 stuffing at the hands of a strong Pilkington team on Saturday has dented confidence further, but joint manager Paul Lowe singled out Jack Welch and Mark Parker for praise.
The side entertain Rylands Reserves on Saturday at the Cumberland Arena, 3pm.