STALWART Brian Pritchard did Witton a major service at the Britannia Carpets Stadium on Saturday.
The veteran defender claimed his 37th goal in 555 appearances and decided which of the two title contenders would close the gap on season-long leaders Telford.
It could prove an enormously important goal in the long run for Albion, but it was the Gladiators who threatened first and Simon Barrowclough missed a sitter. Liam Brownhill's slip stranded keeper Jon Kennedy, who recovered to palm the ball almost before the Matlock striker realised what a good position he was in.
Soon afterwards the same player came close to connecting with a low cross and later he latched on to an unnecessary back pass from Darren Hock-enhull, but Pritchard came to the rescue.
But Witton were also making inroads.
A good run from Mark Peers saw him square the ball to Griff Jones, who in turn found Adam Warlow but the leading scorer was wide of the target.
A 20-yard Peers free kick drifted over the angle of post and bar before Dorryl Proffitt, recalled from Newcastle Town and making his first start, hit a low shot that squeezed past the post.
Ian Holmes went close when play switched quickly.
Albion took the game to the other end and Warlow figured in three attacks. Firstly, the ball clipped his wrong foot and the chance disappeared. His cheeky shot was deflected just as it looked to be going through the legs of Andy Richmond, who also dived bravely at Warlow's feet to thwart Albion's efforts once more.
The second period opened controversially when a lunge on Brownhill saw the referee wave strong penalty claims aside. Richmond had to scramble backward to tip over Peers' long-distance effort and debutant central defender Ian
Kearney glanced a header narrowly wide. Rob Lloyd sent in a shot from outside the box while Kennedy thwarted Tom Cahill as Matlock bounced back.
The oh-so-vital goal came five minutes from time. Peers had done well to both control the ball and then win a corner. He laid the flag kick into Brown-hill's path and a cross to the far post was met by Pritchard who produced enough power with his head to take the ball into the roof of the net despite Richmond getting a hand to the ball.
Matlock poured forward and two minutes into stoppage time Richmond came up to meet a corner-kick, his header was in turn headed goalwards by Cahill but Kennedy was well placed to push the ball over his crossbar.
WITTON: Kennedy; Hocken-hull, Pritchard, Kearney, Brownhill; Proffitt (Frost 66), Lloyd, Brown (Gahgan 83), Peers; Warlow, Jones (Clegg 73) Attendance: 397.
Star Man: Brian Pritchard, hero at both ends.
Next Best: Mark Peers.
Team Rating: 3.
Match Rating: 4.