DEFEAT at Plymouth in December plummeted Bury into the League Two relegation zone, just two games into David Flitcroft’s tenure.
The Shakers boss described that 2-1 reverse as a dark moment, but fast forward four months and the contrast was startling.
Bury went into the break with a slender one-goal advantage, following Andrew Tutte’s early opener, but stormed clear in the second period with a quick-fire double from Daniel Nardiello and a deserved late goal from Danny Rose.
“I thought it was a complete performance,” said Flitcroft in the post match press conference, as he reflected on just how far his side had come since the reverse fixture.
“At times I didn’t want to watch that game (in Plymouth). I didn’t trust what I actually put out there.
“That was a dark moment for me as a coach because I felt completely vulnerable on the sidelines, whereas today you’ve seen how dynamic the boys look.
“Some of the interchange and combination play was outstanding and I was delighted by some really assured performances.”
The lively Tutte showed great vision to put Hallam Hope in behind the Plymouth backline with a lovely ball around the corner in only the second minute, but the on-loan striker’s shot was blocked.
Plymouth, who started the day just four points outside the play-off places, were not intent on sitting back and Lewis Alessandra missed a glorious chance to hand them an early lead, dragging a shot wide after being put clean through.
Tutte made full use of the let-off to put Bury ahead in the eighth minute, getting on the end of a one-two with Hope before planting a shot under the dive of Pillgrims stopper Jake Cole.
The visitors continued to look dangerous, however, and wasted two more gilt-edged chances before the break.
Midfielder Andres Gurrieri blazed over from six yards after Jensen could only parry a stinging Reuben Reid shot into his path.
And Reid was left thumping the turf in frustration after his glancing header bounced just the wrong side of the post.
But any thoughts of a Plymouth comeback were snuffed out by Nardiello’s three-minute second-half brace.
The referee’s assistant rightly flagged for a penalty after the striker was impeded on the goal-line and he dusted himself down to fire home the resulting penalty in the 49th minute.
Bury’s leading goalscorer then applied the finish that Chris Hussey’s sublime cross deserved, heading in his 11th goal of the season in Bury colours.
Shakers’ on-loan striker Rose, who replaced Hope for the final 35 minutes, then took centre stage.
He clipped the bar with a curled shot from the edge of the box before twice going close from Nardiello passes and then seeing a header cleared off the line.
The Barnsley forward finally got his just reward three minutes from time, placing a Clive Platt lay-off into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to extend Bury’s unbeaten run at the JD Stadium to 15 games.
The victory – Bury’s fourth in five matches – also saw them move to within a point of Plymouth and seven of the play-off places with three games of the season remaining.
BURY: Jensen 7; Jones 7, Mills 8, McNulty 7, Hussey 9; Soares 7, Sedgwick 7 (Miller 7 66), Tutte 9, Mayor 7; Hope 8 (Rose 9 56), Nardiello 8 (Platt 79).
Not used: Cameron, Procter, Grimes, Charles-Cook.
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE: Cole; Berry, Trotman (Young 60), Nelson, Purrington; Gurrieri (Thomas 60), Hourihane, Blizzard, Banton; Alessandra (Showunmi 60), Reid.
Not used: Boco, Wotton, Harvey, Dawson.
Goals: Bury - Tutte 8, Nardiello 49 & 52, Rose 87.
Yellow cards: Plymouth Argyle – Berry 86.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 3,401 (553 visiting).
Star man: Daniel Nardiello – Bury’s star striker has looked to be struggling for form and fitness in recent games but he was back on the boil on Saturday, energised perhaps by loan signings Hallam Hope and Danny Rose. Indeed, if Rose had been on for the full 90 minutes rather than replacing Hope in the second half he could easily have stolen the plaudits, but Nardiello put in one of his most complete performances and deservedly bagged two more goals to add to his tally.