WALSALL 2-1 COVENTRYGoals either side of half-time from Anthony Forde and Tom Bradshaw gave Walsall a pulsating victory over West Midlands rivals Coventry.
Forde’s cool finish opened the scoring on 40 minutes, and Bradshaw volleyed home the Saddlers' second shortly after the break.
Jacob Murphy's sublime strike gave Coventry hope but Walsall held on for a fourth successive win in all competitions.
The result saw Dean Smith’s unbeaten side climb above the Sky Blues into second place, level on points with new leaders Gillingham, who have a superior goal difference.
Sam Mantom had the game’s first attempt inside four minutes, but Coventry goalkeeper Lee Burge was equal to his ambitious 25-yard drive.
The visitors, who entered the match with the only 100% record in League One, suffered a blow two minutes later when James Maddison limped off injured, to be replaced by Murphy.
Jim O’Brien, the scorer of Coventry’s winner in the 3-2 midweek victory over Crewe, registered their first shot with a tame free-kick which flew safely into the arms of Neil Etheridge.
After a cagey opening quarter of an hour, the match came to life.
On 17 minutes, Etheridge came to the Saddlers’ rescue, producing a fine one-handed stop to deny Murphy from 16 yards.
Moments later, Coventry's Sam Ricketts was perfectly positioned to clear Milan Lalkovic’s effort off the line after Jason Demetriou’s teasing low cross had caused consternation in the visitors’ defence.
Lalkovic was Walsall’s most prominent attacker; twice he tested Burge with shots from distance.
And it was the Slovakian winger who created the game’s opening goal on 40 minutes, slipping through Forde who, one-on-one with Burge, finished with aplomb.
The hosts were in the ascendancy and threatened again through Lalkovic’s long-range, left-footed attempt, which drifted harmlessly wide.
HALF-TIME: WALSALL 1-0 COVENTRY
Walsall began the second-half on the front foot, and Bradshaw brought a smart save from Forde at his near post after being played in by Mantom.
On 52 minutes Walsall doubled their lead.
Lalkovic, a thorn in Coventry’s side all afternoon, drove purposefully at their defence and fired a fierce effort goalwards.
Burge parried, but Bradshaw was on hand to volley home from close range.
Bradshaw’s goal sparked the visitors into life.
The division’s five-goal top scorer Adam Armstrong struck the bar with a superb curling free-kick.
And on 56 minutes they halved the deficit - Murphy unleashing an unstoppable 25-yard drive from the corner of the box which flew into the far top corner via a post.
It was now end to end.
The lively Lalkovic dragged an effort wide of the left-hand upright, before Coventry’s Reda Johnson headed wide from a corner.
Substitute Kieron Morris fired over from the edge of the area, before Lalkovic curled a free-kick inches wide of Burge’s left-hand upright.
With ten minutes remaining, Andy Taylor came within millimetres of adding a third goal, when his long-range left-footed shot skimmed through a host of bodies and clipped the outside of the far post.
Tony Mowbray’s Coventry, the division’s previous league leaders, were struggling to find a route back into the match; Ruben Lameiras’ tame shot straight at Etheridge was the closest they came to an equaliser.
Jordan Cook spurned the opportunity to make it 3-1 late on when he poked agonisingly wide after a barnstorming run.
FULL-TIME: WALSALL 2-1 COVENTRY
Team: Etheridge, Demetriou, Taylor, O’Connor, Downing, Chambers ©, Mantom, Bradshaw, Sawyers, Forde (Morris 66’), Lalkovic (Cook 73’).
Subs not used: Baxendale, MacGillivray, Henry, Preston, Flanagan.
Attendance: 7,176 (2,281 Coventry supporters).