Walsall 1 Hereford United 0
Walsall need one more win to clinch automatic promotion to Coca-Cola League One after beating ten-man Hereford with a goal from long-serving Dean Keates seven minutes from the end of a knife-edge match.
The Bulls had central defender Dean Beckwith controversially sent off for a foul on Trevor Benjamin in the 79th minute and the Saddlers cashed in by stepping up the pressure until the breakthrough came.
Substitute Darren Wrack had a drive saved by Wayne Brown, but the keeper was unable to hang on to the ball and Keates pounced to crack in his 12th goal of the season and becom the club's joint-leading scorer.
Walsall also set a new club record of 20 clean sheets, with Clayton Ince equalling the club record for goalkeepers by preventing the opposition scoring in 19 of those games.
Saddlers' manager Richard Money, on the verge of clinching promotion in his first season at Bescot, said: "A lot of people were telling us we had more chance of being in the Conference than League One, but we have a strong mentality and I was very impressed with the players in pre-season.
"The chairman (Jeff Bonser) and the board gave me the backing when I needed it to push us through and it's great credit to the players. Now we want the League Two title."
Money admitted the Saddlers were not at their best but worked hard for the result, while Hereford manager Graham Turner blamed referee Gary Sutton for a red-card decision which he felt turned the match.
Turner explained: "I believe he did not have a clear view of the incident. I felt the fouls were started by Benjamin, but we get a player sent off and we should have had a penalty when Martin Butler handled."
Hereford played the better football in the first half while moving the ball round confidently and Alan Connell issued a warning with a seventh-minute shot which flew wide.
In reply, Benjamin found Kevin Harper whose low shot looked to be going inside the right-hand post when Brown dived full-length to turn it for a corner.
But the Bulls were not there to make up the numbers and both Luke Webb and Connell headed over before Benjamin almost set up a goal for Walsall with a fierce cross from which Butler had a shot blocked and the rebound flew wide off Dobson.
A rare mistake by Rob Purdie when he stumbled on the ball let in Butler on 32 minutes, but the Saddlers' top scorer hit a low shot tamely at Brown, and as the Bulls returned to the attack, Connell volleyed against the near post following a good run and cross by Andy Williams.
Then Williams had another shot deflected for a corner and Hereford's claims for a penalty were rejected as Butler appeared to handle in the box while trying to clear.
In the second half, Walsall improved and Butler had a header blocked on the line before Harper fired over the bar.
After Benjamin went down on the edge of the box in a tangle with Beckwith, however, the Hereford defender went off and that was just the boost Walsall needed to go on and win their third successive match, extending their unbeaten run to eight games.
Scorer: Keates (83).
WALSALL (4-4-2): Ince; Westwood, Smith, Gerrard, Fox; Harper (Taylor, 84), Dobson, Keates, Wright (Wrack, 54); Benjamin (Sam, 89), Butler. Substitutes: Gilmartin, Deeney.
HEREFORD UNITED (4-4-2): Brown; Travis, Mkandawire, Beckwithh, Purdie; Williams (Fleetwood, 77), Smith, Webb, Thomas; Guinan, Connell (Rose, 80). Substitutes: Thompson, Palmer, Jennings
Referee: G J Sutton (Lincoln).
Booking: Walsall — Fox (dissent).
Sending-off: Hereford — Beckwith (professional foul).
Walsall man of the match: Dean Keates — The midfielder fought for every ball and was rewarded by scoring the winning goal for his hometown club. It could be the promotion decider.