Adam Chapman scored with a magnificent free-kick at the Pirelli Stadium on Friday night as Oxford United refused to let their season die and proved the party-poopers to beat all party-poopers.

In a game Chris Wilder's team had to win to stay in the hunt for a play-off place, they defended with great fight and strength, and then hit Burton through their on-loan Sheffield United star, with 20 minutes to go to win 1-0.

Chapman's stunning 25-yard shot, which he hit up and over the Burton wall, came after James Constable was fouled.

Oxford were reduced to ten men in the 80th minute when Chris Willmott, beaten to a long ball by substitute Shaun Harrad, hauled the striker down 25 yards out on the right, and was shown the red card.

Burton, needing just a point to clinch promotion to the Football League for the first time, threw the kitchen sink at the visitors in the closing stages, but the U's held out under intense pressure, with Billy Turley getting behind everything.

United had been greatly indebted to their evergreen goalkeeper who pulled off a string of good saves in front of the biggest crowd in Burton's history, one more than watched the FA Cup tie against Manchester United.

This was a remarkable fourth successive clean sheet by United, who sweated buckets to get the result they needed, and leave Burton facing an anxious final few days of the season.

There was an atmosphere of great anticipation in the ground before kick-off, with Oxford fans filling a stand behind one goal and Burton supporters similarly bringing plenty of flags for what they were anticipating might be a night of celebration.

Chris Wilder chose a variation of his recent away formations, Chapman operating as a holding midfielder in front of the back four, and Constable on his own up front, but getting support from the attacking midfielders.

It was a scrappy opening, with both sides determined not to give anything away, and space at a premium.

When Constable was brought down in the sixth minute, it gave Adam Murray a chance from the free-kick, and United's skipper got his shot past the wall, only to see it deflect wide.

Without the suspended Greg Pearson, Albion used big defender Darren Stride up front, and he belied his big frame with a skilful scissors kick which drifted well wide.

Lewis Haldane's sprint down the right was ended uncermmoniously by Aaron Webster, which earned the Burton left back a booking, and after Haldane then fouled back in another clash with Webster, moments later, and escaped a booking, the home fans were on the winger's case.

Craig Nelthorpe wasn't really getting on the ball as the visitors would have hoped, and the balls in to Constable were hardly making it easy for United's top scorer.

But defensively, the U's were strong and doing little.

But when Stride was fouled and Burton flung over a free-kick, Turley came to Oxford's rescue with a vital fist out just as Lee Morris looked set to score.

The keeper then showed it was no fluke with a very firm punch when a corner came over.

Murray was yellow-carded for dissent, and Haldane inevitably followed before the first half had come to an end for persistent infringements.

Just before the half hour, Turley made a vital save with his leg from Keith Gilroy's angled shot to keep the visitors level.

By now Burton were doing most of the pressing, although really clear-cut chances still seemed few and far between.

Goodfellow managed to get around the back of United's defence, but Chris Wilder's team stood firm with some good blocks.

There was a reprieve from the home team's attacking just before the break as Chapman's long diagonal ball out right set Haldane free and he cut inside and hit a firm 20-yard drive, but straight into Deeney's midriff.

At the start of the second half, Constable had a superb 18-yard effort on the turn, which was tipped over by Deeney.

Turley made a stunning save from Marc Goodfellow's 20-yard drive, palming the ball to his right when it seemed to be heading for the top left corner, and how Morris didn't score from the follow-up only he will know.

Stride picked up the loose ball and squared it for Morris in front of an open goal, but he couldn't get enough of a connection on it.

Knowing they had to win, Oxford brought on Craig Farrell to support Constable, and although it did that, it also made them more open.

Burton saw a header from Gilroy's corner held comfortably by Turley, who had more trouble with a Goodfellow shot, saving at the second attempt.

Midway through the second half, the U's threw caution to the wind by sending on Yemi Odubade as another attacker, in place of Damian Batt, in a desperate attempt to break the deadlock.

And they got it, through Chapman, to send the U's fans into raptures.

Odubade might even have got a second on the break, but lost possession, and Constable went close in the final minute.

In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Burton's substitute striker Shaun Harrad was also sent off after a melee in the Oxford goalmouth in which he appeared to hit out at Turley.

Oxford Utd: Turley; Batt (Odubade), Willmott, Foster, Sandwith; Chapman, Haldane (Hutchinson), Murray, Clist, Nelthorpe (Farrell); Constable. Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Carruthers. Sent off: Willmott. Booked: Turley, Murray, Haldane, Chapman.

Att: 6,192 (1,067 from Oxford).