Highland League leaders Brora Rangers ground out what could be an extremely important three points come the end of the season in a thrilling encounter at Mackessack Park.
A fourth-minute Jordan MacRae header was all that separated the sides in a pulsating 90 minutes, and had it not been for later heroics from Brora keeper Joe Malin the Speysiders may have claimed a point.
Brora captain Malin said: “I get paid to make important saves, and I had to near the end.
“I love keeping clean sheets and it was great to help us get three points from this one.
“I felt we probably could have been two or three gears higher today so we didn’t play at our best but I was really impressed by Rothes. They gave us a really tough game, and not many will come here, take three points and keep a clean sheet this season.”
Rothes were unchanged from the side which defeated Deveronvale the previous weekend but new loan signings Jack Brown from Caley Thistle and Elgin City’s Darryl McHardy were both on the bench.
Brora Rangers were also at full strength with Paul Brindle, Colin Williamson and Greg Morrison having to be content on the bench.
In the second minute the Brora defence closed down Steven Anderson as he bore down on goal, while at the other end Andrew MacRae fired wide of the target from 12 yards.
Brora took the lead when Jordan MacRae rose unchallenged as he headed home a Gavin Morrison cross from four yards.
Shortly after Andrew MacRae’s 15-yard drive whizzed past the upright before Rothes replied with an Aidan Wilson header which Malin gathered with ease.
Malin thwarted Alan Pollock before Gregg Main fired wide of the Brora goal from a good position as play swung from end to end.
The biggest crowd at Mackessack Park in years were thoroughly enjoying the action and on the half-hour mark it took a wonderful save from Malin to keep out Ryan McRitchie’s diving header.
In the first minute of the second half Brora defender Tom Kelly cleared an Ally Sutherland effort off the line before home keeper Ewen Macdonald was in the right place to clutch a stinging Martin Maclean 25-yarder.
Martin Maclean almost made it 2-0 to the visitors but Macdonald dived brilliantly to palm the ball to safety.
Just before the hour Rothes brought on McHardy for his first taste of Highland League action.
In the 63rd minute Brora were awarded a penalty kick when referee Beaton adjudged that a 25-yard free-kick had hit a hand in the Rothes defensive wall, but Jordan MacRae’s spot-kick crashed back off the face of the crossbar.
Rothes almost levelled when a McHardy back-post header also bounced back off the face of the crossbar before Malin brilliantly blocked a drive from Rothes substitute Gary Kerr to ensure the Cattchs departed with all three points.
Rothes striker Steven Anderson said: “There was hardly anything between ourselves and Brora out there.
“With a bit of luck we could have scored a couple of goals,” added Anderson.