A first half goal from in-form midfielder Gavin Malin helped Forfar Athletic see off a stubborn Stirling Albion side - and close the gap on Stranraer.
Malin grabbed his second goal in three games to give the Loons a deserved 1-0 victory over the Binos at Forthbank, with the hosts playing almost the entire second half with 10 men following the dismissal of captain Chris Smith.
Stuart McLaren’s team sprang into life after that red card but didn’t test goalkeeper Rab Douglas until after the hour mark.
Malin said after the game that it was essential that the Loons didn’t rest on the laurels of their 1-0 lead despite having the extra man, particularly given Stirling’s danger man Sandy Cunningham, the young striker who had scored two late goals the last time Forfar visited Forthbank, earning the side a 2-2 draw.
Gavin said: “It was a hard game, especially when they went down to 10 men because they seemed to start passing the ball a lot better. It happens sometimes when a team loses a man, they try even harder.
“We just had to keep the shape and keep working hard to get them on the break. They played three at the back so we were looking to get them with Swankie’s pace.
“It’s never that easy, first half we controlled the game but they’re always a threat. They’ve got the lad Sandy Cunningham up front, he’s a great player and he’s always a threat in behind the defenders. You’ve always got to be wary of that.
“It was great to go in at half time 1-0 up. It was good to get the goal, it came from a throw and the boys played some one-twos and I got my foot to it.”
Just one change was made after last week’s win over Stenhousemuir, with the injured Dale Hilson replaced by Danny Denholm, who scored the winner in that battle with the Warriors.
The Loons started well and almost took the lead in the eighth minute when Iain Campbell’s free kick was knocked down by Michael Travis, but skipper Gavin Swankie sent his volley inches over former Forfar keeper Greg Paterson’s bar.
In the 12th minute Swankie sent a through ball to Denholm and his cross was cleared at the near post, with Omar Kader ready to convert a simple tap-in at the back post.
It was the same less than a minute later, Denholm and Martyn Fotheringham combining before Campbell swung the ball into the box but Paterson held the ball with Fotheringham close.
The Loons took the lead in the 37th minute, some great passing on the left hand side carving a poor Albion defence apart before Swankie was able to make his way to the byline before cutting the ball back for Malin to fire home.
Stirling had been struggling to get into the game and it was made even more difficult for the side bottom of the league just 43 seconds after half time - Fotheringham chased after a clearance and once he collected it on the edge of the Stirling box he was bundled over by defender Smith.
Referee Barry Cook opted to send Smith off, with the home support and management feeling it was a harsh decision.
Denholm was causing Stirling all sorts of bother and he had two efforts go narrowly over the bar.
The hosts had their first shot on goal in the 58th minute when Angus Beith sent a free kick into Rab Douglas’s arms.
Malin went close again in the 83rd minute, sub Chris Templeman flicking a long ball into the path of Swankie who cut the ball back for the midfielder, but Malin sent the ball just over the bar with Paterson beaten.
Douglas did well to gather Beith’s effort in the last minute, Albion’s first shot from open play.
League leaders Stranraer drew 1-1 with Airdrieonians, meaning Forfar close the gap on the Blues to just one point, with a game in hand.
Stirling albion (4-4-1-1): Paterson; McGeachie, C Smith, Wedderburn, McKinlay; Shepherd (Hamilton, 49), Comrie, Beith, Johnston (Paton, 77); Cunningham, G Smith.
Subs not used: Reidford, Robertson, Forsyth, Herron, McClune.
Forfar Athletic (4-4-2): Douglas; Travis, Dods, Malcolm, Campbell; Kader (Templeman, 70), Young (Husband, 90), Malin, Denholm; Swankie, Fotheringham (Dale, 78).
Subs not used: Salmon, Dunlop, James, Steeves.