Sam Hird’s header five minutes from time gave Chesterfield a narrow 1-0 win over Walsall at the Proact Stadium.
The match possessed very few clear cut chances and looked destined for a goalless draw before Hird’s back post header elevated the Spireites from 12th to ninth and two points behind sixth-placed Rochdale.
It ensured Chesterfield supporters can look forward to Tuesday night’s clash against Bradford City at Valley Parade with renewed hope of claiming a top six place ahead of trip to Yeovil on Good Friday and Crewe on Easter Monday.
Chesterfield manager Paul Cook named an unchanged line up for the visit of Walsall to the Proact Stadium from that which were cruelly undone at Peterborough United.
There was a new name on the substitutes’ bench in that of Jon Flatt, on loan from Wolves following an injury to Aaron Chapman, and a return to the squad for Byron Harrison.
Harrison, a January transfer from Cheltenham Town, hasn’t been involved since MK Dons away on March 7 after a family bereavement but came off the bench.
Spireites fans will remember one familiar face in the visitors’ starting eleven in the form of keeper Richard O’Donnell, who spent a season at the Proact in the 2012/13 campaign.
A rare change of ends didn’t knock the home side out of their stride, as Chesterfield faced the Karen Child Stand in the first half. Jay O’Shea blazed a shot high and wide early on.
The hosts did have the ball in the back of the net inside the opening ten minutes when Gary Roberts’ left wing delivery to the far post was headed down by Ollie Banks.
O’Donnell got down quickly but in doing so parried the ball back in to play for Banks to push over the line - but celebrations were cut short for an infringement on a Walsall defender.
Banks’ aerial presence caused the visitors’ back line trouble and he came close when he met Drew Talbot’s cross but couldn’t angle his glancing effort on target.
Walsall’s first effort came when Jordan Cook fired a shot from the edge of the area that had Tommy Lee beaten full stretch and also the post, as it whistled in to the fans behind.
Roberts’ right-footed cross was caught up in the crosswind and had O’Donnell back-pedalling at speed to prevent it from creeping in to the top corner and clattered in to the post.
Anthony Forde shot from 30 yards wasn’t troubling Lee while Sam Hird made a well-timed tackle on Jordy Hiwula, who had Sam Mantom charging unmarked through the middle.
Sam Morsy’s drive was straight at O’Donnell and Sam Clucas was inches away from connecting to Tendayi Darikwa’s cross as the Spireites looked to build a head of steam.
Walsall twice saw sights of goal in the opening five minutes of the second half but James Baxendale failed to hit the target first with a 20-yard effort then a header.
Chesterfield’s best chance to that point fell to Hird, who ran on to Banks pull-back, but dragged a shot that took a deflection on its way past the post.
Gboly Ariyibi was introduced on the hour-mark for Banks and had an immediate impact when he knocked the ball past his marker and delivered a telling cross that was James Chambers cleared over his own bar.
Walsall substitute Mal Benning then hit a shot well off target before the Spireites were caught sleeping from a short corner by the away side.
Chambers met Ben Purkiss’ delivery from the right and sent a looping header towards goal that looked as though it was about to dip under the crossbar only for Lee to get his fingertips to it and push it on the woodwork. The ball bounced in to the six-yard box but Darikwa was alert to clear the danger.
Cook made a double substitution on 68 minutes with Harrison and Mani Dieseruvwe brought on in attack supported by Ariyibi and Clucas on either flank.
The game was heading towards a goalless draw when Ryan floated a corner to the back post where Hird rose above all else and headed down past O’Donnell. The goal couldn’t have come at a better stage of the match.
Spireites: Lee; Darikwa, Hird, Evatt, Talbot; Ryan, Morsy (c); O’Shea (Harrison 68), Banks (Ariyibi 61), Roberts (Dieseruvwe 68); Clucas. Subs not used: Flatt, Raglan, Carter, Humphreys.
Walsall: O’Donnell; Purkiss, Taylor, O’Connor, A. Chambers (c) (Flanagan 81), Mantom, Baxendale (Benning 60), J. Chambers, Cook, Forde (Cain 60), Hiwula. Subs not used: Downing, MacGillivray, Grimes, Murphy.
Bookings: Ryan 50 (Spireites).
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).
Attendance: 6,358 (460).