CHRIS Atkinson’s late strike gave Chesterfield their first home win in the league for almost two months.
The Spireites fell behind in the first minute thanks to John Mullins but pulled level just before the break through Liam Cooper.
In what was largely a frustrating afternoon for the hosts, Atkinson latched on to Marc Richards’ flick to slot home the winner from 12 yards.
Paul Cook made four changes to the team that lost to Bristol Rovers last weekend with Tommy Lee, Liam Cooper, Chris Atkinson and Brennan Dickenson all given a place in the first team.
Lee’s return in place of Richard O’Donnell marked his first game after eight weeks out with a shoulder injury.
Mark Randall picked up a knock during the week while Terrell Forbes and Craig Clay were on the bench for the Spireites, who last won at home in the league against Cook’s former club Accrington Stanley on September 18.
The visitors were missing top scorer Tom Craddock but took the lead through John Mullins inside two minutes from Peter Leven’s corner.
The centre back on loan from Rotherham United rose highest at the far post to nod the ball back across goal and over Sam Togwell into the top corner.
There was nothing Lee could have done about the first but he did well to prevent a second minutes later diving to his left when Jake Forster-Caskey out-jumped Drew Talbot.
Chesterfield were struggling to cope with the pace and movement of Oxford’s front men and found it difficult to get out of their own half.
Tendayi Darikwa came close with a delicate chip to the far post which curled fractionally wide.
Darikwa then found himself 12 yards out after Atkinson’s burst from midfield but his shot from an angle was easily scooped up by Ryan Clarke in the visitor’s goal.
James Constable then should have doubled Oxford’s advantage but the striker blasted well over from eight yards with the goal gaping.
Atkinson’s low drive from the edge of the area was then well held by Clarke as a wave of Chesterfield players closed in.
And the Spireites were all square just before the break through Liam Cooper’s powerful strike.
Dickenson’s corner wasn’t cleared and with the ball bobbling around the penalty area Cooper netted to deservedly bring Chesterfield level.
Atkinson, who was at the heart of most things going forward for the hosts, fired wide of Clarke’s left hand post after a determined run from the left.
Marc Richards was then introduced to the action for Scott Boden, who had again worked tirelessly up front for 65 minutes with no reward.
Leven curled a free kick over from 30 yards and Mullins watched his header sail harmlessly over as Oxford looked to take the lead for the second time.
Jack Lester replaced Dickenson, who received a standing ovation from parts of the ground who were encouraged by his willingness to take on the full back, as Chesterfield resorted to a 4-4-2 formation for the last 20 minutes.
As time ticked away frustration began to build around the Proact. Boa Morte replaced Whitaker with just 10 minutes remaining.
Nathan Smith charged forward and unleashed a shot from 20 yards which was always going over Clarke’s goal.
But the game was settled by Atkinson who was rewarded for another lung-bursting run into the box to give the Spireites a much-needed three points.
Spireites: Lee; Talbot, Hird (c), Cooper, Smith; Togwell, Atkinson; Dickenson (Lester 73), Whitaker (Boa Morte 82), Darikwa; Boden (Richards 65).
Subs not used: O’Donnell, Clay, Forbes, Ridehalgh.
Oxford: Clarke; Whing, Wright (c), Mullins, Capaldi; Heslop (Pittman 60), Cox, Leven, Forster-Caskey (Rigg 60); Constable, Potter (Chapman 90)
Subs not used: Raynes, , Brown, O’Brien, Marsh.
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Att: 5,433 (426)
Bookings: Cox 43, Whing 45; Cooper 71.