FLEETWOOD 2-1 WALSALLGeorge Dobson’s first career goal was unable to prevent Walsall from falling to a narrow defeat at Fleetwood.
Ashley Hunter’s spectacular 20-yard curler put the Cod Army ahead on the stroke of half-time, before Bobby Grant made it 2-0 with an unerring 67th-minute drive.
West Ham loanee Dobson’s 25-yard strike halved the deficit with 13 minutes remaining but it was not quite enough as the Saddlers slipped to a seventh league reverse of the season.
Walsall entered the match having never lost to Fleetwood in the seven previous meetings between the two sides.
And the Saddlers were first to threaten on four minutes, when Joe Edwards cut the ball to Erhun Oztumer, whose first-time drive from point-blank range was blocked by Nathan Pond.
Fleetwood enjoyed a bright spell around the 20-minute mark, with Amari’i Bell stinging the palms of Neil Etheridge with a fizzing near-post drive from George Glendon’s short corner.
The hosts went close again from another Glendon set-piece moments later, when Cian Bolger glanced a header inches wide of the far post.
There had been little to separate the sides in an evenly-contested first-half, but on the stroke of half-time, Fleetwood got their noses in front.
Joe Edwards conceded possession inside his own half, with Hunter twisting and turning before curling a spectacular right-footed effort into the corner from 20 yards.
Half-time: Fleetwood 1-0 Walsall
The Saddlers almost found a leveller within two minutes of the second half, when Bakayoko brought down Oztumer’s wonderful lofted pass but his shot was blocked by Pond.
Fleetwood had a huge chance to double their lead on 55 minutes, but Etheridge made a crucial, diving save to deny David Ball after the striker was found unmarked by Hunter.
It proved a brief reprieve for the visitors as Uwe Rosler’s team – who had won their previous four home league games - made it 2-0 midway through the second period.
Hunter’s miss-hit cross was clawed away by Etheridge but only as far as Grant, who drilled an unerring left-footed shot into the far corner.
Walsall gave themselves a lifeline with 13 minutes remaining, George Dobson with a well-struck 25-yard drive which deceived Cairns and flew into the middle of the net.
Fleetwood had chances to restore their two-goal cushion.
An audacious lob from Grant drifted narrowly over, before substitute Chris Long tested Etheridge with a scuffed effort, as the hosts held on for victory.
Full-time: Fleetwood 2-1 Walsall
Team (3-5-2): Etheridge; Preston, O’Connor, Toner (Jackson 69’); McCarthy, Dobson, Edwards (Makris 89’), Chambers, Laird; Oztumer, Bakayoko.
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Osbourne, Cuvelier, Kinsella, Moussa.
Attendance: 2,708 (358 Walsall supporters).