FIRST-HALF strikes from Chris Simm and Michael Powell left the Blues one win away from all but securing the title.
Three points clear and with just two games to go, Neil Young’s table-topping team will almost certainly seal the sole automatic promotion place with victory at AFC Fylde on Monday given they boast a better goal difference of nine over Skelmersdale United.
That is the scenario after Chester returned to winning ways this afternoon and second-placed Skem drew 1-1 with Curzon Ashton.
Having drafted in a sports psychologist in the lead up to the match, Blues boss Young will have been pleased by the composure and courage displayed by his players in front of the biggest Exacta Stadium crowd of the season.
Simm’s early strike certainly helped to calm the nerves and there would have been no looking back after Powell doubled the advantage had Michael Taylor not got himself stupidly sent-off 12 minutes into the second half.
It was Powell who created the opening goal of the game 13 minutes in as he picked up possession in the middle of the park before driving forward and releasing a clever ball over the top.
Simm’s run was timed to perfection and, although Ben Hinchcliffe came out to challenge him, the striker won the battle and tapped the ball into the empty net to take his tally for the term up to 10.
The outstanding Simm was denied a second in the 27th minute when he was brought down in the box by Luke Atherton.
It was a blatant penalty but referee James Madine disagreed and rubbed salt into the wound when he sent Young to the stands for taking his protests too far.
Chester were momentarily rattled and the visitors – unbeaten in five and out to impress new managers Neil Crowe and Neil Reynolds – tried to take advantage with an Alistair Waddecar long-range effort that the recalled Richard Whiteside parried to safety.
It was a routine but important save as six minutes before the break Powell ultimately made the game safe with his second goal in as many matches.
Robbie Booth made it as his whipped free kick from the left was glanced into the bottom corner by the tall midfielder.
Booth was proving a thorn in Bamber Bridge’s side and, after he skimmed the post, he was only denied the goal he was threatening by one of his own team-mates.
Following a flowing team move, the winger’s slide-rule effort was heading in, but Simm made sure only to be ruled offside.
Simm was doing what all good forwards would do, but there can be no excusing Taylor’s needless challenge on George Bowyer moments later that brought the centre-back a second yellow card.
The Blues now had their backs to the wall and they were grateful to the woodwork for keeping out a 25-yard free kick from the lively Waddecar.
The tension should have been eased 12 minutes from time when Hinchcliffe clearly handled outside of his area, but for the second time the officials got a big decision wrong and the goalkeeper was allowed to stay on the field.
Chester: Whiteside, Aspin, Horan, Taylor, C Williams, Booth, Barnes, A Williams (Field 53), Powell, Wilde (Stones 59), Simm (Wilson 86). Subs: Barlow, Judge.
Sent-off: Taylor 57.
Goals: Simm 14, Powell 39.
Bamber Bridge: Hinchcliffe, Bowyer, L Atherton, White, Crowder, Reynolds, Clark, Wright (Galliers 83), Waddecar, Marlow (Mayers 71), Taylor. Subs: M Atherton, Jones.
Referee: James Madine (Liverpool).