Super-sub Billy Sharp came off the bench and ended an eight-game run without a goal to emerge as Sheffield United's hero as the Blades beat in-form Coventry City at Bramall Lane.
A scrappy encounter looked to be heading for a scoreless draw until the 79th minute when Sharp took advantage of a goalkeeping error to move United to within four points of the top six.
It wasn't pretty, indeed at times it was hard to watch, but United dug in for the win showing fight and dogged determination and got a little bit of luck along the way.
Before the game, tributes were paid to two very well-known and highly-respected Blades, who sadly passed away this past week - goalkeeper Alan Hodgkinson and club photographer Martyn Harrison.
A huge green jersey emblazoned with 'Hodgy 1' dominated behind the goal and an emotional minute's applause took place before kick off.
Nigel Adkins made three personnel changes for the visit of City. Bob Harris, who picked up an injury last Saturday in the win over Oldham which required a week-long period of rest under the concussion protocol, wasn't risked. Billy Sharp, who had come off at half time last week in a tactical change, dropped to the bench and Che Adams is suspended.
That meant starts for David Edgar, returning from injury, Martyn Woolford on the left of midfield and Conor Sammon up front.
A cagey opening to the game meant few chances were created by either side and it appeared from early on that physicality would be feature heavily - especially from a United perspective.
While the Blades were doing little to put the visitors defence under pressure, they were working hard, pressing the opposition and not allowing them time on the ball.
The only near-breakthrough that landed for the visitors in the opening stages of the first period came on 19 minutes - and even then they appeared to benefit from a mistake by the officials. Adam Armstrong latched onto a through ball as the United defence stepped up - he looked offside but the flag never came up and it took a fine save by George Long to deny the division's leading goalscorer.
Three minutes later that physicality was ever more prominent as Jay McEveley was booked for a very late challenge on City's Ruben Lameiras - a decision that incensed the traveling support.
There was then something of a lull in proceedings. Neither goalkeeper was tested for the remainder of the half, though Coventry defender Aaron Martin did cause his team mates' a nervy moment when he headed over his own goal from a Blades corner.
With a minute left of the half, City were perhaps fortunate to have the full quota of players on the pitch as a Sammon ball over the top found Matt Done racing towards goal and he was hauled back by Ben Turner. The referee Iain Williamson deemed a yellow card suitable punishment and like the booking for McEveley, there is a legitimate argument to be had for a red.
The resulting free kick by McEveley, aimed at the back post, was wasted and the sides went in at the break scoreless.
The second half began with the tempo considerably higher than the first, the players perhaps waking up after the early kick off.
On 53 minutes Adkins sought to increase that further as the Blades boss made his first change, with the tenacious Stefan Scougall coming on for Woolford.
It was Coventry who would next come closest to scoring though as an attempted Neill Collins clearance landed at the feet of Lameiras who forced Long into a fine save, pushing the effort over the bar.
Just before the hour mark, the visitors made their first substitution as ex-England international Joe Cole replaced Jim O'Brien.
It was a much younger Coventry player who showed vintage Cole-esque skills soon after though as Armstrong robbed Collins on the right, nutmegged the defender and fired across but Jacob Murphy just failed to get on the end of it.
On 65 minutes Sharp came on for Sammon but still it was Coventry who came close as a cross tight on the bye-line on the left deflected quickly off Collins at Long and almost into the goal but the keeper recovered on the line. Goal-line technology could well dispute that though.
Panic was beginning to set into the United defence as the half wore on and they didn't look comfortable while the visitors pressed in search of an opening.
That eventually subsided though and United began to push themselves. However, it was somewhat out of the blue when with a little over 10 minutes remaining they broke the deadlock.
A Paul Coutts corner from the left, won by fine running by Sharp, was flapped at by Reice Charles Cook and the substitute striker knocked in from close range for his first goal since October 20.
Coventry lost their way after that and became frustrated with John Fleck booked for a late tackle on Scougall and then in injury time skipper Sam Ricketts picked up his second caution and was sent off for a late tackle on Chris Basham.
United had looked much more confident following the goal and grabbed what could turn out to be a huge victory over the course of the season.
Sheffield United: Long, Brayford, Basham, Coutts, Done, Collins, Woolford, Sammon, McEveley, Edgar, Hammond: Subs: Howard, Flynn, Sharp, Scougall, Reed, K Wallace, McGahey.
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Stokes, Vincelot, Fleck, Lameiras, Armstrong, O'Brien, Turner, Ricketts, Martin, Murphy. Subs: Burge, Cole, Tudgay, Haynes, Kelly-Evans, Antoine-Fortune, Kent.