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Oxford United 0 Chesterfield 1 (Humphreys 29)
OXFORD United suffered their first league defeat of the season as Ritchie Humphreys' classy strike claimed victory for leaders Chesterfield.
The hosts also had Andy Whing sent off midway through the second half, but came close to a dramatic late equaliser when Deane Smalley's header was denied by a post.
Chesterfield had chances to kill the game off, but had to be content with Humphreys' cushioned volley just before the half hour mark.
Smalley was fit enough to start against his former club, replacing Scott Davies in the only change to the XI from the 2-2 draw at Cheltenham Town.
Sean Rigg made a welcome return to the squad five weeks after tearing a hamstring and was named among the substitutes.
The meeting between the top two produced a fantastic atmosphere at kick-off.
The early exchanges of the contest did not disappoint either, with both sides playing some excellent football.
Chesterfield were the first to threaten when, on 11 minutes, Drew Talbot did well to cross for Tendayi Darikwa, whose shot was smartly turned round the post by Ryan Clarke.
It took United a quarter of an hour to stretch the Spireites' back four.
Asa Hall played in Dave Kitson to cross for Smalley. It was only cleared to Alfie Potter on the edge of the area, but the winger could not get a shot away.
The next attack had the home fans purring, as the U's sprayed the ball around with a swagger.
A quality move ended with Potter crossing for Smalley to head a fraction wide.
Clarke needed to be on his guard to get a hand to a cross and prevent a tap-in for Darikwa.
But the goalkeeper was powerless to stop Humphreys opening the scoring on 29 minutes.
The veteran, making his 666th career appearance, brought the ball forward and after passing to Eoin Doyle he kept running. When the Irishman centred it was perfect for the 35-year-old to coolly steer a volley into the far corner of the net.
After Smalley curled a shot just wide Chesterfield went on to enjoy a dangerous ten minutes in search of a second goal.
It came to nothing and they were almost pegged back on the stroke of half-time.
Whing's pass took a deflection and fell kindly to Smalley in space 18 yards out, but the shot flew wide.
U's boss Chris Wilder made a positive change seven minutes into the second half, bringing on Rigg for Hall.
Potter fired wide from range as the search for an equaliser continued.
Chesterfield were still threatening at the other end and only some excellent work from Tom Newey just after the hour snuffed out a chance for Doyle.
The game was nicely poised when, midway through the second half, United were reduced to ten men.
Whing came across to try and cut out a counter-attack, but Doyle got their first. Already committed, the stand-in skipper felled the striker at pace.
Referee Trevor Kettle had no hesitation in showing the midfielder a straight red card.
Wilder brought on Davies for Michael Raynes, switching to a 3-4-2 system in the hope of taking something from the game.
It left gaps at the back which Chesterfield exploited time and again, but they could not find a second goal to kill the game off.
Clarke made good saves to deny Jay O'Shea and Doyle as the home side stayed in the game.
They were still able to create chances of their own and came within inches of an equaliser five minutes from time.
Kitson got in down the left and crossed for Smalley, whose header beat Lee but struck the base of the post and bounced clear.
United piled on the pressure in stoppage time, but a free-kick which Davies struck over was their final chance to take something from the game.
Oxford Utd: Clarke, Hunt, Raynes (Davies 72), Mullins, Newey, Potter, Whing, Rose (Ruffels 90), Hall (Rigg 53), Kitson, Smalley.
Unused subs: Jalal, Williams, Shama, Bevans.
Chesterfield: Lee, Talbot, Hird, Cooper, Humphreys, Morsy, Ryan, Darikwa (McSheffrey 72), O'Shea (Devitt 90), Roberts, Doyle (Gnanduillet 83).
Unused subs: Chapman, Edwards, Evatt, Togwell.
Referee: Trevor Kettle.
Attendance: 7,187 (1,066 visitors).
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