MARC Richards’ second goal in as many games gave Chesterfield their third consecutive win away at Plymouth Argyle.
A strong defensive performance from the Spireites saw them weather a first half storm as the hosts did everything but score.
The introduction of Luis Boa Morte for the second period and a change in formation swung the tide in favour of the visitors.
But the Pilgrims will feel aggrieved after claims for a penalty after the ball seemed to hit Nathan Smith on the arm were turned down by referee Graham Scott, much to the home support’s dismay.
Paul Cook named an unchanged line-up from that which stuck four past Cheltenham on Tuesday, but his side lacked the fluidity of mid-week.
Chesterfield pressed early on and Nathan Smith’s deep cross from the left caused hesitancy in Argyle’s defence. The ball evaded everyone and left back Onismor Bhasera was forced to see the ball behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
Argyle’s first attempt on target came from lively winger Paris Cowan-Hall, who cut inside Smith with ease but his shot was scooped up by Tommy Lee.
The Spireites showed confidence on the ball to launch a counter-attack which began by their own corner flag. Drew Talbot and Sam Hird worked the ball up to Marc Richards, who flicked the ball over his shoulder to release Tendayi Darikwa.
The winger showed quick feet to get away from three Argyle players and found Danny Whitaker in space 30 yards from goal. But instead of shooting, he shifted the ball wide to Brennan Dickenson and the move eventually broke down.
Meanwhile Argyle showed their attacking menace with Andres Gurrieri, Cowan-Hall and Alex MacDonald all testing Chesterfield’s defence. Liam Cooper blocked a goal-bound effort as the visitor’s struggled to get out of their own half.
Chesterfield’s best chance of the half came when Dickenson’s cross found Richards 12 yards out, but his right-foot shot flew wide of Rene Gilmartin’s left hand post.
The hosts then sparked into action and unleashed wave after wave of attacks on the Spireites’ goal.
Curtis Nelson headed straight at Lee from Hourihane’s cross before MacDonald forced the ‘keeper into a smart save at his near post.
Richards was the right man in the right place to block a fierce header and Sam Hird deflected a Gurrieri effort on to the bar with Lee rooted to the spot.
Cowan-Hall had his head in his hands when he headed MacDonald’s right wing cross wide from seven yards.
Despite the hosts enjoying the bulk of possession, Chesterfield weathered the storm as both sets of players went in goalless at the break.
Cook introduced Luis Boa Morte for the second half as the Spireites adopted a 4-4-2 formation.
The Portuguese star was straight into the action, unleashing a speculative drive which narrowly sailed wide of the goal early on.
Boa Morte then curled an effort towards goal but Gilmartin was equal to it diving to his left.
Chesterfield continued to come forward and centre half Cooper had a header diverted away from goal before placing a 25-yard effort which was smartly saved after a neat give and go with Jack Lester.
The visitors didn’t have to wait too much longer to break the deadlock.
Boa Morte’s left wing cross was brought down on the chest by Lester right in the path of Richards who lashed the ball in from eight yards.
The Pilgrims almost responded immediately through MacDonald but his long range effort was a whisker wide of Lee’s right hand post.
Hourihane’s effort from distance epitomised the hosts frustration and Atkinson had to time his tackle to perfection to prevent Joe Lennox’s burst into the box.
Then came the controversial moment which compounded the Pilgrims’ misery.
Lennox made room for the cross which appeared to strike Smith’s raised arm but the man in the middle Mr Scott waved away claims from both players and fans.
Chesterfield held on to secure the win while the pressure continues to mount around Argyle chief Carl Fletcher, who are without a win in eight.
Spireites (4-4-1-1): Lee; Talbot, Smith, Cooper, Hird (c); Darikwa, Dickenson (Boa Morte 45), Togwell, Atkinson; Whitaker (Lester 52); Richards (Clay 82).
Subs not used: O’Donnell, Forbes, O’Shea, Townsend
Pilgrims: Gilmartin; Berry, Bhasera, Blanchard, Nelson; MacDonald, Cowan-Hall (Madjo 76), Hourihane (c), Gurrieri (Lennox 75), Molesley; Chadwick (Griffiths 76).
Subs not used: Cole, Lowry, Richards, Harvey.
Att: 5,711 (261)