Arundel Football Club were pushed all the way by ten-man basement boys Hailsham Town in a controversial clash at Mill Road last night.
Harry Russell got the only goal to ensure Mullets moved up a place to 16th in the standings to ease their relegation fears with a 1-0 win.
It was far from plain sailing for Arundel, who struggled for large periods against a team playing with ten players for more than 85 minutes.
Hailsham goalkeeper Ryan Reid was shown a straight red card less than five minutes in for handball outside the area, forcing midfielder Sammy Townsend to go in goal as they had no substitutes.
The victory moves Mullets five points clear of third-bottom AFC Uckfield Town in the final relegation spot.
Arundel boss Richard Towers felt the three points were all he could take out of the game and wants to see an improvement in the critical Easter fixtures against Worthing United and Wick.
He said: “We were as poor in this one as we were good in our win over Eastbourne United on Saturday.
“I made the mistake of saying to the lads that a 1-0 win would do, which I’m pleased with, but I wanted a performance as well.
“We’ve moved further away from danger but if we continue to play like this we’ll be back in trouble. The win is all we can take from this.”
Conner Townsend saw a well-struck effort saved down low by James Fernandes inside two minutes, before a moment of controversy. Harry Russell’s attempted lob was handled by the onrushing Reid outside the area, leaving referee David Joseph with no choice but to send him off.
After much deliberation - and with no substitutes - midfielder Sammy Townsend was forced to go in goal.
Mullets made the most of the extra man going ahead after 21 minutes.
Asa Nicholson and Lewis Jenkins linked up with the latter playing in Russell, whose right-foot drive nestled in the bottom corner off a post.
Arundel failed to kick on following the goal with Hailsham looking dangerous on the counter. Fernandes was nearly caught in possession ten minutes before half-time, then Conner Townsend’s cross just evaded Matt Barbosa with Hailsham ending the first 45 minutes stronger.
It was more of the same early in the second as Conner Townsend went close on two occasions. Fernandes had to get down low to stop a fierce drive five minutes after the restart, then Townsend’s first-time volley – after meeting Marcus Goldsmith’s cross – went just wide.
Hailsham began to tire in the closing stages and substitute Luke Richards almost had an instant impact.
Nicholson’s header played the forward in less than a minute after his introduction, although he could only blaze well over six minutes from time.
Richards then fired a rebound just wide a minute later, while Sammy Townsend spilled over and Russell poked just over as it ended 1-0.
ARUNDEL: Fernandes; Lofting, Tipper, Walker, Bunker, Jenkins; N.DaCosta, Mottershead, Jarvis; Russell, Nicholson. Subs: A.Biggs (A.Biggs, 50), Hunter (Bunker, 65), Holmes, Richards (Jarvis, 79), McDonald.
Don't miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you'll be amongst the first to know what's going on.
1) Make our website your homepage at www.littlehamptongazette.co.uk/
2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LittlehamptonGazette
3) Follow us on Twitter @LhamptonGazette
4) Register with us by clicking on 'sign in' (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don't miss out!
The Littlehampton Gazette - always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.