Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Colchester United 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers may have barely scratched the surface of their performance in Sunday's Black Country derby as they returned to Molineux to tackle Colchester United.
But that won't be causing manager Mick McCarthy too much heartache after what can only be described as a gritty three points took his team back up to fourth place and into the Championship play-off zone.
It wasn't clever, and it wasn't pretty, but these are precisely the sort of games Wolves need to show they can win if they are to be classed as genuine promotion candidates rather than fleeting challengers.
Win it they did, thanks to a fourth consecutive clean sheet and the predatory instincts of Stephen Elliott at the end of one of the few moments of cohesion Wolves produced during the evening.
And when Colchester midfielder Kem Izzet's shot bounced back off the inside of the post with the last meaningful kick of the game, it summed up the fact it was somehow always going to be Wolves' night.
Wolves were forced into three changes from the side which had earned such a deserved point at The Hawthorns, with Seyi Olofinjana, Michael Kightly and Jay Both-royd all sitting out through injury.
Darren Potter, Freddy Eastwood and Elliott stepped in, with the latter paired together up front as McCarthy reverted back to his preferred 4-4-2 formation.
Whether down to the new faces bedding in, or whether there was some form of Black Country derby 'hangover', for the first half hour Wolves were completely out of sorts, a performance littered with poor control and misplaced passes.
And the visitors, backed by one of the smallest away followings to have visited Molineux in many a year, would have taken advantage but for their lack of clinical edge and the width of Wayne Hennessey's right-hand post.
Mark Yeates had already fired a free-kick straight at Hennessey before another low drive bounced back off the woodwork on 12 minutes.
There were two more Colchester chances, Kevin Lisbie running through before also shooting straight at Hennessey and then Johnnie Jackson's dangerously inswinging free-kick failing to find a finishing touch.
Football being football, when the goal came, it came to Wolves, thanks in no small part to some excellent play from on-loan Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson.
After a corner was cleared back in his direction, the normally right-footed Gibson swivelled to send over a perfect left-foot cross from which Eastwood's header was brilliantly saved by Dean Gerken. But Elliott, marking his first start in eight games, was on hand to nod home his third goal of the season.
Whatever was said at half-time, and presumably in McCarthy's case it wasn't pretty, Wolves still struggled to find any sort of rhythm after the restart, grateful again that the solidity of a defence currently revelling in clean sheets was limiting Colchester to feeding off scraps.
The sort of quality at Wolves' disposal was also perfectly in evidence on the hour mark, when Eastwood tried to lift his colleagues by finding space outside the box and letting fly with a powerful drive which came back off the inside of the post.
The absence of that cushion of a second goal always left the game open, but after Colchester substitute Kevin McLeod shot straight at Hennessey, Stephen Ward was only inches away from giving Wolves some breathing space after cutting in from the left.
There was still time for that one last almighty scare, as Izzet latched on to Teddy Sheringham's predictably sublime knockdown, the woodwork kept its side of the bargain, allowing Wolves to keep theirs as they continue to stay up with the pace.
Scorer: Elliott (31).
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley, D Ward, Craddock (Gray, 87), N Collins; Gibson, Potter, Henry, S Ward; Eastwood, Elliott (Keogh, 69). Subs: Stack (gk), Little, Jarvis.
COLCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): Gerken; Duguid, Balogh (Connolly, 34), Virgo, Granville; Yeates, Watson (McLeod, 63), Izzet, Jackson; Lisbie (Sheringham, 73), Platt. Subs: Cousins (gk), Guy.
Referee: E Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 20, 966.
Wolves man of the match: Jody Craddock once again marshalled the defence superbly to underpin a crucial three points.