THERE was a 60-second spell in this game which could go a long way towards deciding the outcome of this season.
It all started when Annan Athletic’s Tommy Goss was allowed a run at goal, but was stopped by Brett Long at close range. The ball broke loose and Dominic Docherty, from close range, fired wide.
When the ball reached the opposite end of the pitch, it was the moment that won Dumbarton the game. Finlay Gray with the assist, Russell McLean with his first goal for the club.
Ryan Wallace had already opened the scoring with an outstandingly-finished fifth minute effort, but Goss equalised for the visitors early in the second half.
It was far from Sons at their fluent best. Annan had been in good form going into the game and at times, looked good value for a fourth consecutive victory.
But after changes were made, Dumbarton ramped things up, and were rewarded with a net-busting finish from McLean with 11 minutes left.
With Stirling Albion idle due to opponents Elgin City being in Scottish Cup action, Sons moved seven points clear at the top. That could revert to four on Tuesday depending on what Bonnyrigg Rose can do at home to Stirling.
However, it is all about what Dumbarton do, and but for the final 10 seconds at Ochilview, this would have been their third straight win.
They certainly made a start worthy of winning the game. From Brett Long’s kick downfield, Wallace spun away from an Annan defender and scored with a perfectly-placed lob.
He could have had another five minutes later, but shot over from a corner, before Annan saw more of the ball going forward. The free-scoring Goss had a couple of opportunities, but missed the target.
Then, five minutes later, a big escape. Chris Johnston’s shot for Annan Athletic looked to be heading in of its own accord, but Goss tried to claim the goal for himself and was flagged offside.
Seven minutes into the second half, though, there was no denying the visitors. A ball into the area caused panic and Goss converted at close range.
Sons now had it all to do again, and changes were made, but only a brilliant challenge by Gray – on earlier for the injured David Wilson – denied Docherty a clear shot at goal from the edge of the box.
Clear chances were at a premium, but the signs of one of those days were there, until the 78th minute sliding doors moment.
Goss was clearly offside again when he started his run, but this time it was not picked up and play was allowed to continue. Long did his job, the defence did its job, but the ball fell to Docherty, whose shot was off target.
The importance of that was clear within a minute. Dumbarton broke forward and, when Gray found McLean in the box from the right hand side, the striker took a touch before nearly bursting the net with his finish.
From there, it was seen out. Annan did throw everything forward in search of a second equaliser, but the defensive resilience that has served Sons so well this season kept them out.
It was another nervous ending, but successful teams go through those. Despite it all, job done.
Dumbarton: Long; Wylde (Ross MacLean 60), Buchanan, Carswell, Orsi, Wilson (Gray 31), Love (Russell McLean 60), Lynas, Blair, McNiff, Wallace (Byrne 88). Subs: Broun; Lynch, Vata, Grant. Booked: Blair, Carswell.
Annan Athletic: Fleming; Gibson, Kilsby, Lyon, Hooper, Muir, Wallace (Luissint 68), Docherty (McCartney 84), Smith, Goss, Johnston. Subs: Mitchell; Steele, Barnes, Hunter, Williamson, Galloway, Swinglehurst. Booked: Wallace, Luissint.
Referee: Duncan Williams.
Images by Andy Scott.