CHESTER won a low key but nevertheless entertaining first round tie to progress in the Cheshire Senior Cup.
Antoni Sarcevic (2) and Wes Baynes gave the Blues a deserved half-time lead but they needed a late Tony Gray strike to see off lower-league Cheadle.
Chester – for whom it was their first competitive match in eight days – fielded a strong side despite missing five first-team players.
Captain George Horan and the transfer-listed Michael Powell – who is on the verge of signing a three-month loan deal with Curzon Ashton – served the final games of their three-match bans while Iain Howard and Dave Hankin were left out as a precaution with Saturday’s big FA Trophy tie less than 72 hours away.
Blues boss Neil Young, who remains without the injured Matty McGinn, found positions on the bench for youth team duo Sean Miller and Tom Peers.
Miller missed out on a place in the starting line-up to Baynes, who struck the woodwork twice inside the first 15 minutes.
His first effort – a curling 25-yard free kick – clipped the top of the bar and his second – an angled drive from the edge of the area – was touched onto the post by Stephen Piggott.
A period of poor defending from the visitors followed and Ben Brooks put the hosts in front in the 17th minute when he fired in from virtually on the goal-line after a corner was not cleared.
Chester’s response was swift.
The equaliser came in the 19th minute when Sarcevic turned a goal-bound Danny Williams attempt into the net from what looked an offside position.
Sarcevic's second goal followed six minutes later and was easier on the eye, the in-form midfielder showing excellent skill to hook in his seventh of the campaign.
The Blues play four steps further up the non-league pyramid than North West Counties League Division One Cheadle and the gap in class told the longer the half went on.
Baynes was given the time and space to extend the advantage five minutes before the break with a 22-yard piledriver that rocketed into the top corner.
Striker Peers was brought on for his debut at the start of the second half and he was soon followed onto the pitch by midfielder Miller after Luke Denson went off injured with an ankle injury that is likely to rule him out for at least two weeks.
Miller and Peers both went close to scoring their first goals for the club in an even second half in which Cheadle hit the post through Andrew Lindon and wasted a great chance through Arron Carroll.
The spirited Stockpot outfit were given a way back into the match in the 69th minute when a free kick from substitute Ben Roberts, from wide out on the left, was fumbled into his own net by Martin Fearon.
Goalkeeper Fearon’s blushes were nearly spared by Peers and Miller, who were hailed as 'excellent' by their manager.
The former saw a 16-yard shot come back off the post before he played a lovely one-two with the latter that ended with Miller being denied by Piggott.
But Piggott was beaten in the 79th minute by Gray, the forward opening his account for the club with a sharp left-footed finish from 18 yards.
Chester: Fearon, Denson (Miller 52), Collins, Linwood (Brown 46), Clancy, Baynes, Mackin, A Williams, D Williams, Sarcevic (Peers 46) Gray. Subs: Jarman, M Williams.
Referee: D Strain.