Newmachar United remain six points clear at the head of the McBookie.com Second Division, but only after being given a real fright by Islavale.
The clash at Charlie Gordon Park ended 3-2 after an entertaining 90 minutes.
United took the lead after 20 minutes when right-back Connor Walton’s cross was deflected into his own net by Liam WOOD.
With 10 minutes of the first half remaining, the visitors levelled when striker Ryan Whelan, playing out of position in defence, failed to clear a through ball and Gary MORRISON took full advantage to stroke the ball home.
Three minutes later, the Keith outfit went in front with an almost identical move, which was converted by Mickey SIMPSON.
That was how it stood at the interval, but 10 minutes after the restart it was all square after a second own goal, with Scott BARRON the unlucky defender this time.
The winner came on the hour mark when a James McMahon free-kick caused panic in the Vale rearguard. As the defence hesitated, Matty TOUGH was first to react and he made no mistake.
While that was the end of the scoring, Islavale never gave up and were denied by the woodwork with a couple of minutes to go.
United manager Ewan Robb was relieved to take all three points, saying: “We had eight boys missing so we have to be happy with the win.
“We started off really well, but sloppiness let them back into it. We changed things at half-time and thankfully got the job done.”
Former Banchory St. Ternan boss Robb, who joined United in June of last year, is really pleased with the way the side have started their league campaign, adding: “They’re a good side and it’s a better squad than I expected when I came here.
“I brought in Ryan Whelan and Steve Young from Banchory and obviously promotion is the main objective, although the likes of Rothie Rovers are also a good team.
“It’s a good project here at Newmachar and the ultimate aim is to get to the Superleague.
“We’ve beaten two or three top-flight teams already this season, so we feel we can compete at that level. The fact that we’ve been winning means that we’re getting a fair number coming to see us on a regular basis and we’ve also boosted our hospitality offering.
“There’s a lot of potential here.”
This weekend sees United travelling to Brechin Vics in the second round of the Scottish Junior Cup and, having met their opponents this year already in a pre-season friendly, Ewan believes it is a close one to call.
He said: “In our 10-year history, we’ve never been beyond round two, so it’s a great incentive for us.”