A LATE winner from substitute Jon-Paul Pittman earned Grimsby Town a crucial victory against Bromley at Hayes Lane.
The Mariners secured all three points in one of their games in hand to close the gap on the National League’s top two of Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers.
They were forced to come from behind after Sean Francis gave the hosts an early lead but Town grew into the game and equalised through Jon Nolan.
And with seven minutes left to play, they forced the all-important second goal when Pittman scored after he was picked out from a free kick.
After making six changes for the FA Trophy win over Havant and Waterlooville at the weekend, Town boss Paul Hurst reverted to a more familiar-looking line-up for the return to league action.
In came Richard Tait, Toto Nsiala, Nathan Arnold, Craig Disley, Andy Monkhouse and Padraig Amond, with Danny East, Shaun Pearson, Conor Henderson, Craig Clay, Marcus Marshall and Pittman making way.
James McKeown began in goal, with Tait, Nsiala, Josh Gowling and Evan Horwood forming the defence.
Arnold, Disley, Nolan and Monkhouse were the midfielders, while Amond was joined in attack by Omar Bogle.
The Grimsby subs were Pearson, Clay, East, Pittman and Henderson.
Bromley were looking to get back on track after a poor run of form which had led to the departure of manager Mark Goldberg.
The home side’s key man was likely to be striker Moses Emmanuel, while Crystal Palace loanee Reise Allassani came straight in for his Bromley debut after completing a temporary switch.
An early Town corner came as they looked to take an early initiative, when a shot by Arnold was turned behind by home keeper Alan Julian. The Mariners could not take advantage from the flag though.
Instead, the hosts took the lead on six minutes, after a foul by Nolan on Lee Minshull gave them a free kick. From it, a cross from Emmanuel was met by FRANCIS, who headed past McKeown to open the scoring.
At the other end, a Horwood cross on 17 minutes was headed clear, before Tait had to deal with another home attack.
Bogle won a corner as the clock reached the 20-minute mark and Arnold’s delivery was headed on by Gowling but it was then cleared from danger.
McKeown was called into action to stop a header from Adam Cunnington after an Allessani cross, before Cunnington was involved again as he saw a volley blocked.
Better signs for the Mariners came with a move where Nolan was heavily involved on 27 minutes, with a corner being the end result.
It was to lead to another corner soon afterwards after an overhead kick by Bogle fell for Monkhouse, but Town could not make the latest flag-kick count, as the ball beat everybody and went out for a throw-in.
Bogle looked to catch Julian off his line with a speculative long-range shot just after the half-hour but it caused no problems for the keeper, who was not called into action.
But the away pressure was building and on 32 minutes, the Mariners had their equaliser. A cross from Arnold was not fully dealt with and the ball broke for NOLAN, who blasted it into the back of the net.
Bromley’s response came through Allessani, who turned in the Town box but was not allowed to get a shot in as Disley touched the ball away.
A foul on Bogle gave Grimsby a free kick level with the home penalty area on 40 minutes. Arnold played it short to Amond but he mis-hit his shot.
Town retained possession though and after the ball was worked forward, they won a corner, which quickly led to another. This time, it was headed away but again, the Mariners kept possession until Amond was adjudged to have committed a foul on Paul Rodgers and a free kick was given to the hosts.
A long-range effort from Emmanuel was comfortable for McKeown on 43 minutes, before a shot by Amond was pushed away for a corner.
Two added minutes were signalled, with Town pushing for a second goal before the break. And they almost had it after a shot by Monkhouse, although he could only watch as the ball hit the post. It wouldn’t have counted in any case, as the assistant referee’s flag had gone up.
That proved to be the last notable action of the half, with the Mariners now looking to go on and win the game after the interval, having got themselves level.
Ben May replaced Cunnington for Bromley before the restart and the half had a scrappy start, with neither side able to create any early chances.
Nsiala went down injured after a challenge with May on 54 minutes but was fit to play on without receiving any treatment.
The same two players were involved again soon afterwards, with Nsiala stopping May from getting t a cross and ensuring the ball went out for a goal kick.
At the other end, an Arnold cross was headed down by Monkhouse but it went through to keeper Julian.
Pittman replaced Bogle as Town made their first substitution just before the hour, with real chances still in short supply for both teams.
A header across goal from Pittman was cleared, before Amond was caught offside as the Mariners looked to increase the tempo to aid their search for a crucial second goal.
They won another corner on 67 minutes, with Alex Wall coming on for Allessani before it was taken. The ball was then headed behind for a second corner in quick succession, which led to a cross from Arnold being cleared after it was worked back to him.
A corner came at the other end soon afterwards after the ball looped up off Disley and over his own bar. From the flag, Adam Coombes’ delivery went all the way across to the far post but was put wide by May.
Another Town corner was half-cleared before it was worked back into the box and Pittman headed down for Gowling, who shot wide of Julian’s goal.
The home side were given an opportunity to pressurise the Grimsby goal with a free kick for a foul by Horwood on Minshull but after it was played into the box, Nsiala was able to head calmly back to McKeown.
Disley was shown a yellow card soon afterwards for a late challenge, before Wall missed the target with a shot.
The Town skipper was penalised again for another foul on 78 minutes but this time, the referee took no action other than awarding a free kick.
The Mariners then attacked again in search of a second goal but Amond was blocked after a cross from Horwood.
And that goal finally came with seven minutes to go, after a foul on Monkhouse brought about a free kick just outside the Bromley box. Rodgers was booked for the infringement before Arnold’s ball found PITTMAN, who sent it past Julian to make it 2-1.
Pearson was sent on for Arnold as Town looked to hold onto their newly-gained advantage and a home corner led to McKeown having to make a good save as Bromley threatened an equaliser.
The Mariners eventually managed to get the ball clear though, as the game moved into four minutes of added time.
And despite Bromley attacking in search of a late leveller, Town were able to see the game out to record what could turn out to be a very important win.
They are next in action on Saturday, when Boreham Wood are the visitors to Blundell Park