BURTON Albion hold a narrow advantage in their bid to reach Wembley after they held on to Adam McGurk's lead despite playing with 10 men for half an hour.
McGurk returned to the Brewers line-up and the scoresheet to give his side a 1-0 half-time lead in the first leg of their League Two play-off semi-final against Southend United this afternoon.
But any hope of adding to that were quashed when Ian Sharps was harshly sent off for two bookable offences on the hour mark, leaving his team-mates hanging on for the victory.
They were indebted to Dean Lyness in doing so, as depsite a couple of scuffed clearances and one fumble, the goalkeeper made a string of important saves.
After ringing five changes for last weekend's final game of the regular reason, Gary Rowett rang five more today.
Back in came Billy Kee, Ian Sharps and Callum McFadzean, while Zeli Ismail and McGurk made their first starts following injury.
David Gray, Ashley Hemmings, Matt Palmer and Michael Symes dropped to the bench, while Marcus Harness missed out on the matchday 18 along with Alex MacDonald, who is ill.
The game started at a fast pace, with both sides keen to get the first goal.
Barry Corr, who scored the winner last weekend, was a constant threat, but mainly through his physical bullying of home players, with an one-off target header his only shot.
Fellow forward Kevan Hurst was of more danger, as Burton's right side failed to deal with his and Ben Coker's wide play.
Dean Lyness made three good saves, making up for a couple of dodgy moments, including fumbling a catch that almost gifted Southend a chance.
McGurk was lively early on, and forced the only save from Bentley when he collected Chris Hussey's neat lofted pass, cut inside and forced the keeper to dive wel to his right.
But the visiting custodian could not prevent the Brewers taking the lead, just as the match entered injury-time.
Reunited strikers Kee and McGurk had impressed in patches up front and combined to great effect as Kee touched a pass between the Shrimpers defence and found McGurk, who dinked a delicate shot over visiting keeper Daniel Bentley with his first touch.
The Brewers knew they would come under pressure in the second half, but their cause was not helped by Sharps picking up two bookings in the space of three minutes.
The first was very harsh, as the referee judged the veteran defender had handballed when it appeared to strike his chest, and while the second was probably a foul, it was not neccessarily worthy of a yellow card, especially given the manner of the first caution.
Kee was immediately sacrificed for David Gray, with Phil Edwards once again called upon at centre-half.
Understandably, Burton were done as an attacking threat now, although they forced a couple of corners with neat passing moves across the width of the pitch.
But they more than held their own at the back, with Lyness called upon yet further, including one brilliant reaction save when the ball looked to be heading into the net.