BURY 2-3 WALSALLWalsall climbed up to second in League One after holding off a spirited Bury fightback to win at a frosty Gigg Lane.
The Saddlers led 3-0 at the break, courtesy of Chris Hussey’s own goal, Tom Bradshaw’s composed finish and Anthony Forde’s solo effort.
Leon Clarke's quick-fire second-half double gave Bury hope but Walsall stood firm to secure an eighth away win of the campaign.
The Saddlers showed three changes from the side that drew 1-1 with promotion-rivals Coventry on Tuesday evening.
Andy Taylor, Jason Demetriou and Forde came into a 4-4-1-1 formation, while Milan Lalkovic and Liam Kinsella dropped to the bench.
George Evans was not involved after his parent club Manchester City cancelled his loan spell.
The visitors started brightly, with Forde twice trying his luck from distance.
And Walsall went ahead on 17 minutes, when home defender Hussey inadvertently turned Taylor’s dangerous low cross into his own net.
David Flitcroft’s mid-table Bury, who had lost eight of their previous 11 league matches, looked to issue a response.
Reece Brown’s tame attempt was easily held by visiting keeper Neil Etheridge, who also kept out Andy Tutte’s shot from an acute angle.
Danny Mayor – League Two’s Player of the Year last season – tried to bend an effort into the far corner but his shot flew well wide.
Walsall, though, were looking dangerous every time they went forward.
Midway through the opening period, Romaine Sawyers cleverly worked space before firing over from the edge of the box.
Then, a fast counter-attack involving Bradshaw, Demetriou and Sawyers culminated in Henry seeing a deflected effort bobble wide.
And on the half-hour mark, Walsall doubled their advantage.
Again the Saddlers broke at pace, with Forde bundling his way past Joe Riley, advancing towards the box and feeding Bradshaw.
Walsall’s top scorer set himself before firing a right-footed drive beyond Bury keeper Ian Lawlor at his near post.
The rampant Saddlers were in complete control and added a third goal before the break, thanks to a fantastic individual strike from Forde.
The Irish winger received possession out wide, glided past Hussey into the area and curled a fierce left-footed drive into the far corner.
It was no less than Walsall deserved after a dominant first-half display.
HALF-TIME: BURY 0-3 WALSALL
The first 15 minutes of the second period passed without incident, with the Saddlers content to protect their three-goal advantage.
The impressive Forde threatened to make it 4-0 when we dragged a right-footed shot wide after wonderful skill from Sawyers.
But, out of nowhere, Bury grabbed a lifeline on 65 minutes.
Taylor was dispossessed by Danny Rose, with John O'Sullivan then drilling in a teasing low cross for Clarke to convert from close range.
And, in the blink of an eye, it was 3-2.
Mayor’s right-footed drive from 20 yards was pushed out by Etheridge but Clarke reacted quickest to slide home the loose ball.
Two goals in as many minutes had given the hosts renewed optimism.
Although the momentum was now with Bury, Walsall had a fine opportunity to give themselves breathing space, 19 minutes from time.
Forde charged forward and had the unmarked Bradshaw in support but elected to go alone, seeing a goalbound shot deflected away.
But Bury really should have drawn level with seven minutes remaining.
Clarke, now on a hat-trick, traded passes with Danny Rose, bustled his way into the box and poked a shot against the base of the post.
The ball rebounded to Mayor, who - just eight yards out and with the goal gaping - blazed wastefully over.
It was a big miss.
The Shakers threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Walsall in the closing stages, with Kelvin Etuhu curling wide deep in added time.
Kieron Morris had a chance to make the points safe moments later when he bent a left-footed drive wide of the far post.
But Walsall stood firm to record their first win over Bury in eight attempts.
FULL-TIME: BURY 2-3 WALSALL
Team: Etheridge, Demetriou, O'Connor, Downing, Taylor, Chambers, Mantom, Henry (Morris 66'), Forde, Sawyers, Bradshaw (Preston 89').
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Lalkovic, Flanagan, Cook, Kinsella.
Attendance: 3,532 (547 Walsall supporters).