Ben Davies struck for the third time in three games to give Notts County another three points away at Northampton Town.
The midfielder found the corner of the net at the beginning of an action packed second half at the Sixfields Stadium. As a result, Notts go into Tuesday night's game against Lincoln knowing that a win would effectively secure promotion to League One.
A meeting between League Two's two form teams looked set to be a closely contested affair, even though the hosts were missing their 16 goal striker Adebayo Akinfenwa. The Magpies had better news in terms of availability, however, with both Johnnie Jackson and John Thompson returning to the squad from injury and suspension respectively.
Creative wide man Davies appeared eager to get involved in the opening stages, receiving much of the ball as he repeatedly drifted into space. Subsequent to forcing a foul on the left wing with some inventive dribbling, he swung a dangerous, in-swinging centre that needed only a touch to trouble Jason Steel, who rose gratefully to collect at his back post.
Northampton were the first to create a meaningful opportunity when a quick attack saw Billy McKay's control sharply and prod into the path of Steve Guinan. The forward, who has built up a reputation of scoring past Notts down the years, bent his run perfectly and raced clear of the defence, but his placed shot was denied by the outstretched leg of Kasper Schmeichel.
On the whole both teams were organised at the back, leaving little room for goalmouth activity. Guinan's opening proved to be the only moment that had the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the first 25 minutes.
McKay and Abdul Osman had shots from range as Northampton started to get on top, with the clock counting down closer to the break, but neither tested Schmeichel. Dean Beckwith did seriously threaten, though, during a hectic goalmouth scramble, with a fierce strike that was blocked on the line by a hoard of black and white shirts.
Another escape was greatly welcomed by the healthy visiting support, for news had filtered out that league leaders Rochdale were losing 3-0 against Torquay United. If Notts were to close the gap to just two points at the full time whistle, more attacking presence was required in the second 45 minutes, following an edge close to the first.
In an attempt to keep the ball in the Cobblers' half for longer sessions, Cotterill opted to call upon the services of Delroy Facey at the expense of Luke Rodgers. The half couldn't have started any better for Notts, either.
A direct delivery into the Northampton area led to a defensive mishap, Craig Hinton failing to deal with a loose, bobbling ball. This allowed Davies to take control, before rifling into the far bottom corner with his left foot.
The lead may have been short-lived when, moments later, Schmeichel failed to connect cleanly with a teasing cross. His punch fell to Luke Guttridge on the edge of the area, only Graeme Lee had tracked back to desperately hack the winger's rasping effort away before it crossed the line.
Notts were looking much better after the interval and could have extended their lead on more than one occasion. Hughes nodded narrowly wide from a Davies set-piece and then returned the favour by teeing up the midfielder to strike straight at Steele.
Hughes tested the stopper once more with a header, following a delightful, weighted cross from Facey on the left flank. Steele pushed away, allowing the top-scorer a second bit of the cherry, but Steele was at hand again for a second save, this time smothering the ball.
Home boss Ian Sampson was hoping to drag his team level and introduced three substitutes in one swoop. One of these, Kevin Thornton, made an immediate impact, finding room to fire towards the bottom corner, which required Schmeichel to react sharply in order to palm away low to his right.
The pressure was building and Notts were working hard to quash Northampton's second wind. Holding on for the final 10 minutes was crucial to the team's title hopes, with Rochdale falling five behind at Plainmoor.
Still, Notts had more in their locker, too, and broke whenever possible. Davies drifted quickly down the left and almost settled the match when his 25 yard strike forced Steele to acrobatically push over his own bar.
The Wheelbarrow Song bellowed from the away stands as the game entered four important minutes of added time, which was ended with deafening cheers of relief. Tuesday night might bring promotion but the fans and the players are chasing the division's crown, which is now three points closer.
Attendance: 5,647(1,367 Notts County supporters)
Man of the Match: Graeme Lee
Notts County: Kasper Schmeichel, John Thompson, Mike Edwards, Graeme Lee, Stephen Hunt, Craig Westcarr, Neal Bishop, Ricky Ravenhill, Ben Davies, Luke Rodgers (Facey 46), Lee Hughes.
Substitutes: Russell Hoult, Delroy Facey, Matt Hamshaw, Karl Hawley, Jamie Clapham, Johnnie Jackson, Ade Akinbiyi.
Scorer(s): Davies 47
Yellow Card(s): Edwards 38, Westcarr 44, Ravenhill 77, Davies 83
Northampton Town: Jason Steele, Paul Rodgers (Dyer 70), John Johnson, Luke Guttridge, Craig Hinton, Dean Beckwith, Abdul Osman, Steve Guinan, Ryan Gilligan (Thornton 70), Billy McKay (Harris 70), Peter Gilbert.
Substitutes: Chris Dunn, Alex Dyer, Gary Mulligan, John Curtis, Michael Jacobs, Seb Harris, Kevin Thornton.
Yellow Card(s): Guinan 77
Report by Dane Vincent