A cracking free-kick from Ryan Hall and a strong header from Bilel Mohsni in the first half helped Southend United to a massive win over Oxford United.
The 2-0 victory in front of 9,356 fans at the Kassam Stadium saw Paul Sturrock’s side continue their late surge back towards the top three.
And the win was made all the more important with one game to go after Crawley Town and Torquay United both dropped vital points.
It was my fourth time at the three-sided ground notoriously hard to access by public transport – and my third win.
A noisy 1,106 away following featured dozens of Shrimpers in fancy-dress, including doctors, sailors, nuns and even a hot dog.
And the party atmosphere generated throughout was superb, with huge roars when news came in of favourable scores in other games.
Southend were strong and chased down every ball. Anthony Grant in particular was extremely solid and had a great game.
Neil Harris, Cameron Belford and Mohnsi also played very well, helping the Blues shut-down Oxford for the most part.
Hall’s goal was a rocket from 25-yards, stunning Middlesbrough loanee Connor Ripley in his first game for Oxford.
The second strike by Moshni owed much to Peter Gilbert’s pinpoint cross, but it was a perfect header to beat the debutant goalkeeper.
There were a few scares in the second half, including a big penalty shout against Harris, but the Shrimpers held out well to claim the victory.
The victory was given even greater significance as our rivals slipped up and we moved to within one point of third place.
Next weekend presents us with a perfect home fixture against the worst side in the league who have nothing to play for now they are relegated.
But presuming we beat Macclesfield Town, there is sure to be plenty of checking phones to see how Torquay and Crawley’s afternoons are going.
The Shrimpers may still be underdogs for automatic promotion, but there will be many at Roots Hall now believing the lads can do the business.
If not, it’s the play-offs. But given how well things are going, optimism is sky-high that we might just make it up at Wembley anyway. Bring on Saturday.