NEWPORT County AFC came through their biggest test of the season at home to win a five-goal thriller against ten-men Chesterfield.

Justin Edinburgh’s men were not at their brilliant best at Fortress Rodney Parade and were rocking after Jimmy Ryan cancelled out Danny Crow’s opener after the break.

But a red card for Spireites’ defender Liam Cooper turned the tide as Adam Chapman scored from the spot with 15 minutes remaining.

Even after substitute Andy Sandell had given them a two-goal cushion on 87 minutes they still had to hang on after Marc Richards’ reply in time added on.

But they showed their mettle once again to claim a vital win, their eighth in ten at home this season, to move within three points of League Two leaders Oxford United and reinforce their promotion credentials.

County were ahead as early as the sixth-minute when Robbie Willmott curled in a free-kick from the right and Crow guided the ball into the bottom corner with a perfect header.

It was no less than the Exiles deserved for another 100mph start at Rodney Parade as they once again showed that they are a completely different side on home turf.

The returning Andrew Hughes, back in the side in place of the injured Ismail Yakubu, headed wide from a Willmott corner soon afterwards as the hosts threatened to make light work of the second-placed side.

Willmott was again the provider on 25 minutes as his cross from the left found Christian Jolley but the striker, without a goal since the opening day of the season, was off balance and scuffed his shot wide.

The visitors took an age to get going but eventually started to show the form that has kept them near the top of the table all season.

Adedeji Oshilaja, so impressive since arriving on loan from Cardiff City, had a shaky first half but did improve markedly after the interval.

The 20-year-old seemed to be missing the reassuring presence of Yakubu early on and gave away possession on several occasions under pressure before the break.

One mistake allowed Ollie Banks to curl a shot just wide of Lenny Pidgeley’s post and the goalkeeper, skipper for the day in the absence of Yakubu, had to be alert again ten minutes before the break.

He raced off his line to deny defender Sam Hird, not knowing that the flag was already up for offside.

But he could do nothing about Jay O’Shea’s superb volley on 42 minutes.

The Chesterfield number ten controlled and shot in one motion and Pidgeley could only watch as it smacked against the bar.

Armand Gnanduillet should have done better with the rebound but he headed over and County escaped.

But the goal that Paul Cook’s side deserved eventually arrived on 61 minutes to end County’s run of five successive clean sheets and nearly ten hours of football without conceding.

Gnanduillet challenged Pidgeley for a high ball and it broke to Ryan who had the easy task of rolling it an empty net.

As Chesterfield stepped up the pressure it seemed only a matter of time before they got the second goal and sealed the three points that would have taken them top of the table.

But then, just as the home crowd were preparing themselves for the worst, came the major turning point.

Chapman played in Conor Washington with a delightful chipped pass and the striker tumbled in the box.

Referee Mark Heywood was ready to let play go on and did so for several seconds before his assistant indicated that it was a penalty.

Cooper was adjudged to have hauled down Washington and the referee had no option but to show him a red card as the last man.

Chapman sent Tommy Lee the wrong way from the spot and put his side, somewhat fortuitously, back into the lead.

Substitute Sandell looked to have made the points safe as he followed up Washington’s shot to poke the ball home with three minutes remaining.

But Chesterfield replacement Richards made the final exchanges very nervy indeed with his side’s second in the first minute of time added on.

Goalkeeper Lee came forward as the visitors won corner after corner but somehow County held on for a huge three points.

County: Pidgeley, Jackson, Worley, Oshilaja, Hughes, Willmott, Naylor (Flynn, 89), Chapman, Crow (Minshull, 58), Jolley (Sandell, 81), Washington

Subs not used: Stephens, Pipe, Jones, Barker

Booked: Jolley

Chesterfield: Lee, Hird, Cooper, Ryan, Banks (Richards, 70), Evatt, McFadzean, Talbot, Roberts (McSheffrey, 81), O’Shea (Doyle, 79), Gnanduillet

Subs not used: Chapman, Togwell, DeVitt

Booked: Banks

Sent off: Cooper

Referee: Mark Heywood

Attendance: 3,378 (537 away)

Argus star man: Robbie Willmott