Goals either side of the break from Ed Francis and Ruben Rodrigues earned us a 2-0 win over Gateshead.
Francis marked his return to the side with a composed finish before Rodrigues made sure of the points with a close-range effort.
The victory took us four points clear at the top of the table but there was an air of concern over Adam Chicksen and Macaulay Langstaff, both of whom will be assessed later this week after being substituted with injuries.
Luke Williams made three changes to the side that claimed a dramatic victory at Maidenhead.
Francis, who was left out of the squad for the trip to York Road, replaced the bench-bound Jim O’Brien in midfield, with Sam Austin taking Quevin Castro’s place further forward.
There was also a return for Aaron Nemane, who came in for Tobi Adebayo-Rowling at right wing back.
With temperatures dropping well below freezing, our match was the only one to go ahead on a grass pitch despite a full programme of Vanarama National League fixtures being scheduled.
And the Meadow Lane surface looked in good condition as we assumed early control of possession, with Langstaff seeing a looping header tipped over the bar by Heed keeper Dan Langley on 12 minutes.
Shortly afterwards, a visiting defender had to make a crucial intervention to prevent Langstaff from turning home Chicksen’s cross after Austin had released him down the left.
As the half progressed, Gateshead fired the odd shot off-target and limited us well in terms of clear-cut chances.
But their resistance was broken shortly before the break when Rodrigues brilliantly nodded down a ball in the area for Nemane, whose blocked shot sent the ball towards Francis on the edge of the area. He took his shot first time, guiding it expertly into the bottom corner.
We made a precautionary half-time change as Chicksen, who had required treatment midway through the half, made way for Geraldo Bajrami in a move which saw Kyle Cameron switch to left wing back.
And, minutes into the half, Bajrami was cynically blocked off by Robbie Tinkler – sparking a melee between the two sets of players after which Tinkler and Aden Baldwin were booked.
Cameron’s presence on the left was providing a different sort of threat for the Heed defence to contend with, and he fired a warning shot at goal when Nemane crossed for him on the hour. His header didn’t have enough power to trouble Langley.
But, a minute later, another right-wing cross – from Palmer this time – was met by the head of Cameron, who guided the ball across goal and watched on as Rodrigues slid in to make sure the ball crossed the line.
It was proving to be a far more free-flowing second-half performance with plenty of joy coming down the right. On 68 minutes, neat interplay resulted in Nemane whipping in a dangerous cross only for no-one to be on hand to turn it home.
There was concern two minutes later as Langstaff, who had required treatment minutes earlier after being on the end of a late challenge, went down as he tried to join a promising attack and had to be replaced by Cedwyn Scott. Williams confirmed after the match that the club would need to assess the injury once swelling had subsided.
Despite that disappointment, we continued our pursuit of a third goal with Nemane proving pivotal once more – again doing well to wriggle into the area but seeing his cross-shot flash wide of the far post with no telling touch in the middle.
Four minutes later we had huge handball appeals waved away when a ball appeared to strike a Gateshead man’s hand in the area, shortly before a defender did brilliantly to turn Rodrigues’ dangerous cross behind with Scott set to score.
Baldwin had marshalled visiting centre forward Danny Elliott well all night and diffused a particularly threatening moment on 80 minutes after former Magpie Adam Campbell had sent a ball over the top, forcing Elliott wide and seeing him send his effort off-target.
Austin was denied a goal to cap an industrious display when, on 86 minutes, a defender produced a heroic sprawling block inside the area.
And, after Nemane had dragged a shot wide of the near post in the final minute of normal time, there were to be no further chances to extend our lead as we had to settle for 2-0.
STARTING XI: Slocombe; Cameron, Baldwin, Brindley; Chicksen (Bajrami 46'), Nemane; Francis (Bostock 62'), Palmer, Austin, Rodrigues; Langstaff (Scott 70')
UNUSED SUBS: O'Brien, Castro
BOOKINGS: Francis 10', Baldwin 48', Nemane 90'
ATTENDANCE: 5,539 (88)