Published: 16:40, 09 March 2019
| Updated: 07:22, 13 March 2019
Brandon Hanlan scored a minute from time as Gillingham beat relegation rivals Oxford United.
Hanlan headed home to claim his fifth goal of the season and a precious three points.
The Gills looked to be heading for a point and ruing a 52nd minute penalty from Tom Eaves that had been saved, but it didn’t matter in the end.
Oxford’s recent win at Blackpool was their only away success in the league all season, heading into the weekend fixture. They sat a place and a point behind Steve Lovell’s team in the table.
Gillingham’s home record hadn’t been one to write home about, either, the fourth worst in the division before the weekend.
But a win last time out at Priestfield, against Scunthorpe, followed by a trio of encouraging performances on the road, led to optimism ahead of the fixture and to Lovell naming an unchanged starting eleven.
There wasn’t much between these sides on paper and the first half reflected that.
Even the resident fox in the Town End was having a nap.
Neither goalkeeper had a shot to save in the opening half, the highlight being Tom Eaves’ Cruyff turn which turned the Oxford left-back inside out.
Luke Garbutt was given an early chance after Graham Burke lost possession for the Gills but he was caught in two minds between shooting or finding striker Jerome Sinclair. He managed neither successfully.
Sam Long almost got on the end of a free-kick for Oxford and Garbutt put another couple of efforts wide, while Connor Ogilvie fired over for the Gills and Burke bent a free-kick the wrong side of the post.
Oxford defender Rob Dickie made a good clearance early in the second half as Eaves looked to pounce on a cross from Luke O’Neill.
The second half was just six minutes old when Brandon Hanlan raced onto a ball over the top and was hauled down by Rob Dickie. Eaves, with a 50% record from penalties this season prior to the game, saw his low effort saved by Simon Eastwood.
Moments later Oxford felt they should have had one of their own as Sinclair went to ground following a shove from keeper Tomas Holy as he went to claim a corner. Referee Ollie Yates ignored the protests.
Despite the raise in tempo, clear-cut chances remained in short supply. Gavin Whyte blasted an effort wide and then saw his cross for Sinclair cut out well by Ogilvie. During a good little spell for the visitors Jordan Graham’s shot was deflected wide by Holy.
The winner came on 89 minutes when Max Ehmer - making his 200th Gills appearance - headed a corner back across goal and Hanlan was there to guide it pasty Eastwood.
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Fuller, Ehmer, Ogilvie, Parrett (Reilly 72mins), Byrne, Lopes (Charles-Cook 61mins), Burke (List 78mins), Eaves, Hanlan. Subs not used: Hadler, Garmston, Rees, Campbell.
Oxford United: Eastwood, Long, Ruffels, Dickie, Nelson, Mousinho (Kashi 46mins), Henry, Sykes (Mackie 90mins), Graham, Garbutt (Whyte 62mins), Sinclair. Subs not used: Stevens, Hanson, Brannagan, Browne.
Attendance: 4,991 (656 away)