WALSALL 2-0 BURTONWalsall leapfrogged Burton to return to the top of League One after a well-deserved victory over their promotion rivals.
Liam Kinsella’s first career goal gave the Saddlers a first-half lead and Tom Bradshaw’s last-minute penalty sealed the win.
Dean Smith’s men have taken 25 points from 12 league matches and are now above Burton, the previous league leaders, on goal difference.
The Walsall chief made four changes to his side, with Kinsella, Reece Flanagan, Craig MacGillivray and Rico Henry all handed starts.
Kieron Morris and Milan Lalkovic dropped to the bench, while Neil Etheridge and Jason Demetriou were away on international duty.
Walsall entered this much-anticipated top-of-the-table clash in second place, three points behind Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Brewers.
This was also the first competitive meeting between the two clubs.
Defences were on top in a cagey opening half-hour with few chances of note for either side.
Burton's Mark Duffy fired harmlessly wide with a speculative volley, while Anthony O’Connor headed off target from Matty Palmer’s corner.
For the hosts, Sam Mantom looked to slip in Flanagan but Brewers keeper Jon McLaughlin raced off his line to gather at the midfielder’s feet.
Walsall gradually began to take control and registered their first meaningful attempt on 30 minutes.
Romaine Sawyers shrugged off his man and unleashed a rasping drive towards the bottom corner but McLaughlin did well to turn the ball away.
Shortly after, Rico Henry galloped forward down the left and accurately cut the ball back for Mantom to side-foot well wide of the far post.
On 36 minutes, the Saddlers scored the goal they had been threatening.
Henry glided infield and squared to Sawyers, who intelligently picked out the marauding Kinsella in space on the right-hand side of the box.
Kinsella took a touch to compose himself before rifling an unerring low shot across McLaughlin and into the far corner for his first senior goal.
Burton threatened just before the break, with Duffy tricking his way into the area before curling narrowly wide of the far post.
HALF-TIME: WALSALL 1-0 BURTON
Despite being second best for much of the first-half, Hasselbaink’s Brewers almost pulled level within five minutes of the resumption.
Andy Taylor inadvertently headed Palmer’s corner towards his own goal but Mantom, standing on the line, managed to divert the ball onto a post.
Burton – with four wins in their previous five matches - threatened again shortly after, with Palmer firing a 20-yard effort straight at MacGillivray.
Similar to the first-half, clear-cut opportunities remained in short supply with both teams restricted mainly to efforts from distance.
Mantom drilled a low shot wide and Flanagan fired over, while the visitors’ five-goal top-scorer Stuart Beavon was thwarted by MacGillivray.
The contest began to open up in the final ten minutes as Burton pushed for an equaliser, although Walsall looked lively on the counter attack.
With seven minutes remaining, the Saddlers broke three-on-two, with Sawyers feeding Bradshaw, who in turn found Mantom.
The midfielder carried the ball to the edge of the box before hitting a low shot which deflected off Palmer and trickled wide.
And Burton almost made Walsall pay for that missed opportunity on 88 minutes.
Timmy Thiele turned Beavon’s cross goalwards but man-of-the-match Kinsella made a crucial, goal-saving block from point-blank range.
McLaughlin was then called into action at the other end, diving to his left to keep out Jordan Cook’s curler.
But Walsall made the points safe in the second minute of stoppage time.
Sawyers’ flick was handled by defender Phil Edwards inside the area and Bradshaw stepped up to coolly convert the resulting penalty.
Burton should have pulled a goal back when John Mousinho blazed over from close range but Walsall held on to climb to the summit.
FULL-TIME: WALSALL 2-0 BURTON
Team: MacGillivray, Kinsella, O’Connor (Preston 89'), Downing, Taylor, Henry (Forde 85’), Chambers, Mantom, Flanagan (Cook 75’), Sawyers, Bradshaw.
Subs not used: Roberts, Baxendale, Lalkovic, Morris.
Attendance: 6,812 (1,301 Burton supporters).