Hale Leys United kept their noses in front at the top of South Midlands League Division Two thanks to captain Daniel Parsons whose first-half strike was enough to sink Loughton Manor on Saturday.
With Kent Athletic breathing down their necks, victory was a must for Hale if they are to retain their league title for a third straight season.
United were boosted by having a full squad available and they dominated the opening exchanges with Nathan Graham and Tom Brindley testing both the home goalkeeper and the woodwork.
Eventually the breakthrough arrived and it came via skipper and top scorer Parsons who finished coolly.
Despite applying further pressure, Hale had to be content with just the one goal as they dealt with anything defensively to record a clean sheet and three vital points.
The result keeps them two points clear at the top but second-placed Kent have two games in hand, with Old Bradwell United a further point back in third.
Manager Paul Alleyne said afterwards: “We looked better today and I think the players know that to win the league they have to deliver consistency each week.
“We stumbled last week and it came at a price because we let Kent back into the title race and now Old Bradwell so consistency is everything.
“Regarding the game today, it was a difficulty pitch to play on but Parsons was outstanding and a great example of leadership and hard work as he set the standard and was out man of the match.
“Looking forward, we have a busy weekend, firstly we have a game at home to Clean Slate and then on Bank Holiday Monday we have the South Midlands Division Two Cup final against Totternhoe which will be a big test as they are an improved side since we last played them.
“We won this cup last year it would be good to retain it.
“I hope the squad deliver and I hope that we can get a good crowd on the day as it would be nice to see the support we received last year.”
Hale Leys’ cup final against Clean Slate kicks off at 2.30pm at Leverstock Green FC.