DEANE Smalley struck the winner to complete a fantastic few days as Oxford United followed up their win at leaders Gillingham by beating second-placed Port Vale.

Alfie Potter put the home side ahead, latching onto a mistake from Darren Purse, but a thunderbolt from Doug Loft quickly levelled the scores.

United had to weather some heavy pressure after the break, but bounced back to land a knockout blow from Smalley 14 minutes from time.

They had an opportunity to make the closing stages more comfortable, but Sean Rigg saw a penalty saved.

It did not prove costly, as United held on for another big win - their first at home since New Year's Day.

Josh Parker came in for Simon Heslop in the only change to the U's side which began the win at Gillingham in midweek.

New signing Scott Davies was fit enough to make a strong bench, alongside Michael Duberry, Andy Whing, Tom Craddock and James Constable.

The confidence generated by the 1-0 victory in Kent was clear from the outset.

It took just ten seconds for Potter and Smalley to link up, but the one-two just went awry as Vale cleared the danger.

The lively front two caused the visitors' big centre backs problems when the ball was on the ground.

For once the bumpy Kassam Stadium pitch helped the home side, who took the lead in the tenth minute.

A bobble caught out Darren Purse, whose backpass fell well short of goalkeeper Chris Neal. Potter, full of belief after netting the winner at Priestfield, was alive to the danger and ran through before coolly curling in a finish.

Doug Loft almost levelled within a minute, sending a dipping shot just past the post.

The Vale skipper caught his next shot, on 16 minutes, much sweeter.

Latching on to a header from Tom Pope, the midfielder caught his shot perfectly from 20 yards and it flew into the top corner past an unsighted Luke McCormick.

Another header from Pope, the division's top marksman, set up Calvin Andrew to send an overhead kick wide shortly afterwards.

United shrugged off the setback and continued to cause problems going forward.

On 24 minutes they were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty.

Parker got clear on the left and crossed for Potter, who was clumsily bundled over by a backtracking Ryan Burge, but referee Eddie Ilderton waved away the protests.

The home side finished the half well.

Rigg brushed off a finger injury to glance a header wide, while Michael Raynes nodded off target at an Adam Chapman corner.

The set piece was the midfielder's last involvement and he was substituted for tactical reasons just before the break for Andy Whing.

Vale began to exert themselves after the break as United increasingly found it difficult to clear their lines.

Just before the hour Jake Wright was caught on the ball and Ryan Burge's chip was helped on to the top of the crossbar by McCormick.

United had to weather a succession of corners, with Burge again coming close after robbing Parker. This time his swerving shot just cleared the crossbar.

James Constable came on for the final 25 minutes and within seconds fired a shot wide to get the home crowd going.

The striker played a part in United's second goal, which arrived 14 minutes from time.

Constable fired a low ball across the six-yard box, which Pope almost turned into his own net.

The ball flew over the bar for a corner, which was only cleared to Whing. The midfielder turned down the chance to shoot and instead laid the ball off for Smalley to blast a shot through Neal's legs and into the net.

United continued to press and were rewarded with a penalty seven minutes from time when Davis was upended by Burge.

Smalley initially had the ball, but Rigg took on the duties against his former club. The winger struck his shot low to Neal's right, but the goalkeeper superbly tipped it round the post.

It might have been costly, but United did well to run down the clock against a Vale side who were unable to build concerted late pressure.

Oxford Utd: McCormick, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Davis, Parker (Constable 67), Chapman (Whing 45), Capaldi, Rigg, Potter (Davies 90), Smalley.

Unused subs: Crocombe, Duberry, Craddock, O'Brien.

Port Vale: Neal, Duffy, Purse, McCombe, Jones, Myrie-Williams, Burge (Morsy 86), Loft, Andrew (Hughes 71), Pope, Williamson (Dodds 70).

Unused subs: Yates, Vincent, Shuker, Birchall.

Attendance: 6,322 (865 visitors).

Referee: Eddie Ilderton.