Luton manager Nathan Jones revelled in a “massive, massive result” after a 2-0 win away to relegation rivals Huddersfield lifted the Hatters off the bottom of the Sky Bet Championship.
Second-half goals from Sonny Bradley and Elliot Lee earned Luton three points that take them above Barnsley before the Tykes play Wigan on Saturday.
“It was a massive, massive result, a wonderful result for us,” Jones said. “The performance was outstanding.
“They really came off the blocks and tried to press high, but we controlled the first half after the opening 15 minutes and were dangerous on the break.
“The result was everything. As long as we won I would have taken any kind of performance, but to do it in that manner I’m thoroughly delighted.”
The win means Luton are now just two points adrift of safety, with 21st place currently occupied by Stoke, where Jones began the season before being sacked in November having won only two of the first 14 games of the season.
But while they remain deep in trouble, Luton have now lost only one of their last nine games to offer hope of a great escape.
That defeat was a 5-0 hiding at home to Reading last Saturday, while there was the frustration of conceding a late equaliser to Barnsley on Tuesday, but this was a much more assured performance.
“We didn’t get the rub of the green on Tuesday, but we responded so well after conceding five and conceding the late goal,” Jones said. “It shows the character of the group and I’m really proud of them.”
While Luton celebrated, defeat was a bitter blow for Huddersfield, who are just two points above the drop zone.
That keeps them in danger of following Swindon, Wolves and Sunderland in becoming the fourth team to suffer back-to-back relegations from the top flight to the third tier in the Premier League era.
Three consecutive clean sheets coming into this game had given Danny Cowley cause for optimism, but a lack of cutting edge is now the growing concern as this became a third straight game without a goal.
“We knew the significance of the game and we just didn’t play anywhere near our levels,” Cowley said. “Luton came with a game plan, 4-5-1, sat behind the ball and made it difficult for us to break them down, but we were too slow with our build-up play.
“Frankly we carried very little attacking threat. The first goal was always going to be very important and to give such a soft goal away was criminal. It was just an average ball in our box and it’s a free header from three yards. It’s indefensible.”
Much had been made of this match as an opportunity for Huddersfield to all but assure themselves of safety given they were at home to the side bottom in the table, but Cowley admitted the situation got to his players.
“I didn’t think we felt free enough,” he said. “We were really tight from the beginning. Sometimes the biggest mistake you can make is trying not to make a mistake. We were definitely guilty of that at times.
“Sometimes people think the players don’t care, but let me tell you they do and they were nervous this evening. We need to look at that and try to affect the group because going into the final three games we have to play more freely than we did this evening.”