Two stoppage-time goals added some gloss to a hard-fought, and at times combative, 3-0 win for Bury at West Didsbury and Chorlton.

The Shakers were without talismanic forward Benito Lowe, so Dan Cockerline made his first start for the club in an otherwise unchanged line-up.

From the start Bury were on the back foot. Hosts West Didsbury and Chorlton pushing for promotion themselves and backed by a vociferous home support have made Brookburn Road into a fortress this season.

West’s Billy Matthews fired wide inside the opening minute and also hit the post with a rasping shot with Bury keeper Harry Wright well beaten. Wright would be called upon again to make a save from a West free-kick.

The Shakers struck back, Andy Scarisbrick weaving his way past two defenders but unable to find power behind his attempt on goal, while a promising Connor Comber free-kick was lofted into the trees behind the Shed End.

Comber made amends on the half-hour mark. After Charlie Doyle won the ball in midfield Cockerline was able to lay the ball off to Comber, who fired well into the bottom corner to open the scoring.

The home side’s response was almost immediate. Straight on to the attack Wright was adjudged to have fouled an oncoming West forward and a penalty was awarded. The former Ipswich Town and Fleetwood stopper faced Darren McKnight and saved the resulting spot-kick to the delight of the visiting section of the crowd.

The game turned on a moment just before the break. West Didsbury and Chorlton number 10 Rhain Davis was judged to have caught Doyle in the face by referee Ciaran Williams and to the surprise of many, he pulled out a straight red card.

That wasn’t the end of the disciplinary issues on the pitch for either side, however. Early in the second half, and with the match still finely poised, West full-back Matthew Smyth flew in with a late challenge on Doyle in front of the Bury bench. The referee once again reached for his red card to reduce West Didsbury to nine, but Bury would not get to enjoy a two-man advantage as Joe Duckworth was handed a sin bin for his reaction to the initial foul and would have to spend 10 minutes on the sidelines as Bury were briefly down to 10 men.

In fact, Bury would never enjoy a two-man advantage in the match, as barely a couple of minutes after the dismissal of Smyth, referee Williams reached for his red card for the third time in the afternoon to send off Comber for an off-the-ball incident. With Duckworth still to return, the two sides carried on in a nine-versus-nine contest.

The match was still an open contest and the 1-0 lead felt slender to Bury fans who remembered seeing a 3-1 lead lost in the last two minutes in the return fixture against West Didsbury and Chorlton.

The Shakers could not sit easily on their narrow advantage. Comber had been the danger man having one effort cleared off the line and another that ended up in the back of the net ruled out for offside shortly before his sending off.

Manager Dave McNabb needed someone to step up, and his introduction of Andy Briggs to the fray changed the match.

Briggs, the Shakers' top scorer, and a popular player in the stands, made an instant impact.

He combined well with the returning Duckworth who fired on goal but saw his effort blocked. Briggs then had a shot cleared off the line as the visitors pushed on to extend their lead.

The addition of fellow substitutes Anton Smith and Lewis Gilboy added fresh attacking impetus as the Shakers began to turn the screw on an increasingly overwhelmed West Didsbury.

Gilboy had a shot well saved by Elliot Wynne in the West Didsbury goal in the 90th minute and deep into added time Bury finally got the goal they had been searching for with Anton Smith finishing from close range.

Bury further added to their goal tally, Briggs in search of another goal was tripped in the box in the final minute of added time. The referee once again pointed to the spot and Briggs blasted a powerful effort down the middle leaving Wynne with no chance.

The full-time whistle blew giving Bury an important win against a side in the chasing pack.

The Shakers stay top but there is little respite for McNabb’s men, however, as another away match at another promotion challenger awaits on Saturday when they visit Kendal Town.