Chesterfield emerged top in League Two’s Match of the Day and march on.
Spireites began brightly but without creating anything to unduly trouble the U’s backline in this clash between the top two teams in League Two, at the Kassam Stadium.
The slight sloppiness in the visitors’ defence crept in again, as it did last week against AFC Wimbledon, when Hird’s underweighted header almost offered Potter an opening, but Cooper tackled well to quell the danger.
That incident could have been put down to early nerves and Chesterfield settled before beginning to exert more pressure on the home goal.
On nine minutes O’Shea’s cross was defelcted into the grateful arms of Clarke in the Oxford goal, and three minutes later the keeper had to be at his sharpest when, after a strong run down the right, Talbot fired in a great cross for Darikwa, whose volley from six yards was palmed away for a corner, which came to nothing.
Four minutes later, nippy Irishman Doyle skipped past a number of challlenges and drove across goal, but no-one was quick enough to get on the end of it.
As the half wore on though, this top of the table clash would begin to meet its billing as the game went from end to end.
On 17 minutes a good run and cross from Kitson was cleared away by Cooper and a minute later Smalley, who had a loan spell at Spireites three years ago, should have done better when a fine cross by Potter found the striker, but Smalley headed wide of goal.
Chesterfield were the team playing the better football, but with the bustling ex-Blades striker Kitson up front for the U’s, their direct balls forward were always going to cause problems.
The match was being played at a very high tempo and a few rough challenges were beginning to sneak in too.
However, there was nothing rough about the way Spireites took the lead as evergreen HUMPHREYS struck on 29 minutes.
Great work from Doyle on the left saw him cut inside and send in a cross for the former Owl who had drifted into the box to volley home with his left foot from 12 yards and register his first goal for Chesterfield.
That goal took the sting out of the game a little with Spireites looking a lot more settled but they were given another wrning about Kitson’s threat on 32 minutes when the front man set up Smalling who curled narrowly wide.
On 39 minutes O’Shea and Darikwa combined before the latter’s cross was just cut out with Doyle lurking, but on the stroke of half time, that pairing of Kitson and Smalling caused problems again.
Kitson was again the provider, but Smalling failed to find the target, hitting beyond the post from the edge of the box.
It took a while for the second half to get going as the break seemed to sap the spark from the game.
Chances on goal were at a premium, though O’Shea will feel he should have done better when Darikwa’s deflected cross landed in his path, but the midfielder’s effort was tame, blocked and his pass back to Darikwa found his team-mate in an offside position.
Oxford added more firepower in their atempt to get back into the game as Rigg, returning from injury, came on for the ineffective Hall in the 53rd minutes.
At the other end though, Doyle again was at the heart of the action on 57 minutes when he picked up a pass from Roberts but dwelled too long and the home side cleared.
Potter struck well but wide for Oxford on the hour mark then three minutes later Morsy was lucky not to find himself in the referee’s notebook after a late tackle on Kitson. The referee played the advantage and called the Spireites midfielder over but gave him a warning rather than a card.
That angered the home supporters who were left seething on 67 minutes when Whing was sent off.
Doyle was just too quick for the skipper who flew in late and a little high on the halfway line and was immediately given a straight red card.
Chesterfield had a couple of half chances but they had a let off on 85 minutes when Kitson’s cross from the left found Smalley and this time the striker’s header down was almost perfect but smacked off the base of the post.
Spireites went on to claim a hard-earned three points.