Report by John Edwards
Oxford City 1 Altrincham 2
The pitch may have been artificial, but there could be no doubting Altrincham are the real deal after a third successive win lifted them to sixth place in the Vanarama National League table at the RAW Charging Stadium.
Alty might not have had things all their own way, particularly after going in front through Jake Cooper's first goal in a year, but resilience served them well in front of the live TV cameras as they stood firm and took the points with a late winner from Eddy Jones.
Any manager would welcome goals being shared around, but what a bonus for Phil Parkinson to see one of his central defenders and his left-back popping up in the right place at the right moment to secure such an important and hard-earned win on the road.
After a quiet start by both sides, Alty went in front in the seventh minute with a well-taken first goal of the season by Cooper.
The Robins had been exerting growing pressure and forced a corner on the right when the ball was played back to Chris Conn-Clarke, who cut in from the flank and let fly with his left foot from near the right edge of the area.
It looked like an attempt at goal, rather than a cross, but Cooper demonstrated the instinct and awareness of a striker to steal in beyond the far post and meet the misdirected effort with a first-time left-foot volley into the net from a tight angle.
What a way to open your account for the campaign, and the Alty centre-back had every right to celebrate as he did after giving his side the perfect start in front of the cameras.
There was almost a second for the Robins in the 12th minute when a clever chip into the area by Conn-Clarke was met by an equally-astute back-header by Justin Amaluzor that floated over the keeper but just wide of the right post.
The prospects were looking distinctly encouraging for Alty, but there was a swift reminder of the home side's capabilities as they threatened twice in quick succession.
Josh Parker sidestepped a challenge just inside the area in the 16th minute, only to be denied by a combination of Cooper and Lewis Baines as he fired at goal, and when the ball spun into the air, the same Oxford player connected with a header that was tipped over by Ethan Ross at full stretch.
Three minutes later, Zac McEachran worked his way through on the left of the area, and again it took alert defending from Baines to save the day, as he threw himself in front of the diving Ross to block the shot behind for a corner.
Every roll of the ball, let alone bounce, was throwing up black particles of crumb on Oxford's 3G pitch. Oh for the green, green grass of home, though, to be fair to Alty's hosts, their artificial surface at least ensured there was no danger of proceedings being curtailed by the inclement weather.
City were ending the half strongly, and they went close again in the 39th minute when Andre Burley timed his run to perfection to meet a left-wing cross, only to produce a finish that wasn't quite so flawless as he mishit his shot wide from an inviting position.
Even so, Alty had a golden chance to extend their lead shortly before half-time when Conn-Clarke set up Alex Newby, only for the on-loan winger's first touch to let him down as the ball ran away from him.
An uncertain start to the second half cost Alty dear in the 47th minute as Oxford drew level after the Robins failed to clear their lines from a right-wing cross. The ball was nodded back towards the edge of the area, where Nya Kirby placed a first-time volley beyond the reach of Ross.
Suddenly, if only briefly, the home side were in the ascendancy, with Renny Smith fluffing a great chance from close range in the 52nd minute and Lewis Coyle being thwarted by a point-blank save by Ross two minutes later.
The Alty keeper didn't know much about it, as the shot thudded into his face and left him needing treatment, but you had to admire his courage for reacting to the danger without a moment's hesitation.
He would doubtless have welcomed a switch of focus to the other end of the pitch, and Alty did their best to oblige on the hour when Newby worked enough space for a shot that was too hot to handle for keeper Chris Haigh, who was relieved to see the ball scrambled to safety after he could only parry it.
With both sides pressing for a winner, there was no telling what the outcome might be. All that changed in the 80th minute, though, when the Robins got their noses in front for a second time with a goal that was to prove decisive.
Conn-Clarke played the ball forward to Amaluzor and kept motoring into the area to receive a return pass that suddenly put him through on goal on the right-hand side. Unselfishly, the Alty attacker gave up the chance to shoot from a tight angle and, instead, squared the ball to Eddy Jones, who bundled it over the line from a couple of yards out.
Oxford threw everything at trying to draw level, but it was Alty who came closest to another goal, as Newby went close twice in the closing moments.
In the 84th minute, the winger hit a free-kick from 20 yards that took a deflection off the wall and needed a smart reflex from Haigh, who changed direction to palm it on to the bar and over.
Six minutes later, Amaluzor was at his creative best to play Newby through, but again Haigh was equal to the danger as he reacted brilliantly to palm away the winger's fierce drive.
Oxford had done plenty of attacking, but there was more evidence of the potent threat posed by Alty in added time when the ever-dangerous Amaluzor created an opening for a well-struck left-foot shot that was once more beaten away by Haigh.