Falmouth Town edged ever closer to the South West Peninsula League Premier West crown after beating St Blazey 2-0 on Saturday.
Looking to avenge their 3-2 defeat in the reverse game at Bickland Park, David Broglino gave the visitors a half-time lead at Blaise Park with a fine strike from the edge of the box.
St Blazey were given a mountain to climb just after the hour when centre-back Martin Giles received his marching orders for a challenge on Luke Brabyn, with Luke Barner securing the points for his side 12 minutes later with a sweeping finish into the bottom corner.
The result means Town require, at most, six more points to secure the title, and Andrew Westgarth’s side could be crowned champions next weekend if they beat St Dennis and nearest rivals Liskeard Athletic lose at Wadebridge Town.
Westgarth made three changes to the side that won 3-1 at Sticker last time out, with Kirk Davies, David Broglino and Alex Wharton returning to the starting line-up in place of Ade Thompson, Jack Webber and Jack Bowyer.
Phil Lafferty made two changes to his St Blazey team that beat Ivybridge Town in midweek, with Kyle Marks stepping up from the bench and cup-tied former Falmouth skipper Joe Cooper also returning, with Owen Rosevear and Isaac Burdon dropping to the bench.
The Green and Blacks settled first with Marks testing Ryan Barnes with a volley from a tight angle before the goalkeeper had to be at his best to deny in-form Liam Eddy, who had broken free of the Town defence and looked set to score.
That lucky escape appeared to wake up the visitors and they almost took the lead in the next attack, with skipper James Ward’s header from Broglino’s corner being cleared off the line by his St Blazey counterpart Jordan Dingle.
Town began to stamp their authority on the match and that was soon reflected on the scoreboard as they opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Broglino collected a pass in space on the edge of the box and rifled it past home custodian Jason Chapman.
Keen to press home their superiority, Town almost doubled their lead a minute later when Andreas Calleja-Stayne tried to emulate his midfield partner, with his shot from distance stinging the palms of Chapman, who did well to bat the ball to safety.
The league leaders’ tails were well and truly up now and came close again just before the half-hour. Wharton did well to regain possession before Luke Brabyn fed it to Barner, whose first-time effort smacked against the outside of the post.
Determined to keep their nine-game unbeaten run going, Blazey found a second wind before the break but were thwarted by man-of-the-match Barnes, who first denied Callum Kenny before pulling off one of the saves of the season, launching himself across his goal to tip Eddy’s goalbound effort against the underside of the crossbar and to safety.
The hosts, who had experienced the joy of reaching their first Walter C Parson League Cup final for 11 years when they defeated Ivybridge three days earlier, continued to push after the turnaround with Kenny shooting over by the penalty spot before Barnes once again stood firm to see off Eddy’s strike in a one-on-one.
But the Green and Blacks’ hopes of a recovery took a major turn for the worse just after the hour when they found themselves a man down. Giles went in hard on Brabyn in the middle of the park, and referee Ryan Cornelius was left with no alternative but to send the Blazey man off.
Perhaps predictably, the pendulum immediately swung back in Town’s favour, with Tim Nixon squaring the ball for substitute Olly Walker to score a couple of minutes later, only for the winger to be denied by a vital clearance by Tinsley on the line.
But the visitors were not waiting too long for the all-important second goal, which came just as the clock ticked into the 73rd minute. The ball was laid off to Barner on the edge of the box, who had plenty of space around him to pick his spot and drive the ball into the bottom corner to spark delirium among the F-Troop behind the goal.
With the points in the bag, the remaining quarter of an hour was a test of whether Town could add to their score. Barner had another go but put his effort wide before Brabyn was thwarted by Chapman as a third proved elusive.
It hardly mattered though, as the afternoon well and truly belonged to Town.
St Blazey: J Chapman, W Tinsley, J Smale, J Dingle, J Cooper, M Giles, K Marks, O Brokenshire, L Eddy, C Kenny, C McGhee. Subs: M Vallejo, A Williams, O Rosevear, R Ward, I Burdon.
Falmouth: R Barnes, K Davies, T Moxham, A Calleja-Stayne, T Annear, J Ward, A Wharton (O Walker 58), D Broglino, L Brabyn (J Bray-Evans 77), L Barner (T Clark 90+3), T Nixon. Subs (unused): A Thompson, J Turner.
Referee: Ryan Cornelius.