GILLINGHAM 1-2 WALSALLWalsall kept their automatic promotion hopes alive with an impressive victory at fellow high-flyers Gillingham.
Luke Norris spurned a golden opportunity to put the Gills ahead, when his first-half penalty was saved by visiting keeper Neil Etheridge.
The Saddlers dominated the second period, with Milan Lalkovic’s curler and Jordy Hiwula’s calm finish putting them two goals in front.
Norris’ stoppage-time bicycle kick proved too little too late for the hosts as Walsall held on to climb up to third in League One.
Walsall showed two changes from the side that lost at Oldham 1-0 on Saturday.
Rico Henry and Milan Lalkovic came into a 4-2-3-1 formation, replacing the injured Tom Bradshaw and Andy Taylor, who dropped to the bench.
Justin Edinburgh’s Gillingham entered the match just one place above the Saddlers in fifth place, courtesy of their superior goal difference.
And the Gills – who had talismanic midfielder Bradley Dack back in this side - made the brighter start, threatening first on seven minutes.
The unmarked Deji Oshilaja met Andrew Crofts’ right-wing corner with a powerful back-post header but visiting keeper Neil Etheridge produced a fine tip-over save.
Walsall’s first attempt came on 19 minutes when Sam Mantom’s rasping 30-yard strike was pushed away by Gills keeper Stuart Nelson.
Mantom tried his luck from distance again just moments later, but this time his right-footed attempt from 25 yards sailed over.
No team have taken more points on home soil than Gillingham this season and the hosts very nearly took the lead midway through the first half.
Crofts’ corner was only half cleared and fell to Dack, the Gills’ 15-goal top scorer, on the edge of the box.
The ex-Charlton man hit a wonderful half-volley towards the top corner but Etheridge made a spectacular flying stop to turn the ball away.
Two minutes later, Gillingham were presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead.
Paul Downing was penalised for handball inside the area, but the resulting penalty from Norris was superbly turned away by Etheridge low to his right.
The Kent club continued to press, with captain Josh Wright drilling wide across goal from outside the area.
Walsall thought they had taken the lead just before the half-hour mark, when Lalkovic’s brilliantly-struck 25-yard free-kick struck the top of the bar.
Gillingham then presented with a set-piece opportunity of their own, but Dack’s free-kick from a similar distance curled harmlessly over.
The Saddlers ended the half brightly, with Anthony Forde heading wide from Lalkovic’s fine cross when well placed 12 yards out.
HALF-TIME: GILLINGHAM 0-0 WALSALL
Walsall began the second period positively, with Sawyers floating a lovely pass towards Hiwula but he completely missed his kick.
Jon Whitney’s men were bossing proceedings and continued to press.
Matthew Pennington’s ball was flicked on by Lalkovic for Sawyers, who found Forde but his shot from a tight angle was blocked.
Just past the midway point of the second half, Walsall took the lead.
Lalkovic collected possession inside the Gillingham half and waltzed past Dack before bending a delightful right-footed effort inside the far post.
Nine minutes later, it was 2-0. From a Walsall counter attack, Sawyers advanced forward and slid a superb pass through for Hiwula to finish low past Nelson.
The visitors were rampant and could have increased their advantage, with substitute Kieron Morris testing Nelson with a fierce drive.
Gillingham halved the deficit in the final minute of added time, Norris with an acrobatic overhead kick from Ryan Jackson’s long throw.
But the goal came too late in the day to mount a comeback as Walsall held on for a crucial win.
FULL-TIME: GILLINGHAM 1-2 WALSALL
Team: Etheridge, Demetriou, Downing, Pennington, Henry, Chambers, Mantom, Forde (Morris 69’), Lalkovic (Cook 84’), Sawyers (Flanagan 90’), Hiwula.
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Taylor, Preston, Morris, Kinsella.
Attendance: 6,246 (204 Walsall supporters).