Ricky Miller scored a late winner as Dover came from behind to keep their play-off aspirations intact after beating Braintree Town at IronmongeryDirect Stadium on Saturday.
The massive three points leaves boss Chris Kinnear’s side sixth, level on points with fifth-placed Aldershot Town, but importantly with a game in hand on the Hampshire side.
But relegation- haunted Braintree made Whites work hard for the victory.
The hosts, who finished the game with 10-men after former Dover defender Craig Braham-Barrett was shown a straight red in the second half, led through Michael Cheek’s first half header.
Eastleigh loanee Connor Essam equalised in the 64th minute before Miller, the National League’s leading marksman, sent the travelling fans wild with his 35th league goal of the season in the 89th minute.
The win and the goals were Dover’s first at the venue after Kinnear’s side had suffered losses in both previous National League games there.
Dover started the game brightly and Joe Healy had a shot turned over by goalkeeper Sam Beasant after only two minutes.
But it was Braintree who took the lead with their first attempt on goal six minutes later.
Cheek, Braintree’s top-scorer, rose to head Sean Clohessy’s cross powerfully past Mitch Walker.
Walker then spread himself to save from Sam Corne in a one-on-one as Braintree threatened again.
Dover thought they had equalised after Ricky Modsete pounced on a poor back pass and Miller finished from close range.
But the celebrations were short-lived with the goal ruled out for off-side.
Miller’s run and cross was turned just wide by Modeste before Braintree responded with Braham-Barrett seeing his cross hit the outside of the post.
Cheek had a header easily gathered by Walker before Moses Emmanuel’s curling effort sailed harmlessly over Beasant’s bar.
Dover had the final chance of the opening half, with an unmarked Jamie Grimes heading Healy’s corner into the side netting in stoppage time.
The first opportunity of the second half went to Braintree with Cheek’s effort fizzing across the face of Walker’s goal.
Walker was under threat again moments later, turning away Corne’s low drive before Essam cleared a Corne header off the line.
After his heroics at one end, Essam was about to star at the other – by scoring the equaliser.
The big defender headed Healy’s pin-point free-kick beyond Beasant to put his side back in the game.
Braintree were then reduced to 10-men after Braham-Barrett was given a straight red for a cynical tackle on Modeste.
Substitute Reece Hall-Johnson fired over before a last-gasp Richard Orlu tackle deflected another effort from Hall-Johnson behind.
Dover went in search of a winner – Miller, who scored four in the 6-1 win against Braintree at Crabble in December, delivered.
He got on the end of substitute Mitch Pinnock and fired past Beasant.
Earlier, Kinnear made one enforced change to his starting side following the win against Gateshead a week earlier, with Chris Kinnear jnr replacing the injured Loui Fazakerly.
Braintree: Beasant, Clohessy, Okimo, Goodman, Parry, Corne (Hall-Johnson 75mins) , Isaac, Lee (Barnard 90+2mins), Braham-Barrett, Midson, Cheek.
Subs not used: Ashton, Farrell, Twardek.
Dover: Walker, Orlu Grimes, Essam, Sterling, Magri (Thomas 53mins), Healy, Kinnear jnr, Modeste (Pinnock 71mins), Miller, Emmanuel (Lafayette 60mins)
Subs not used: N’Gala, Caton
|8th April 2017||3:00 pm||National League||2016-2017||90'|