Cambridge United overcame Port Vale 1-0 in a crucial encounter at the Abbey Stadium to move seven points clear of the League Two drop zone.
A solitary first half strike from David Amoo and a high quality performance in goal from Dimitar Mitov ensured United picked up their fourth win from their last five Sky Bet League Two fixtures.
Jabo Ibehre returned for the U’s as their only change from their last League Two outing against Exeter City.
Mitov was called into early action against the Valliant’s star man Tom Pope and produced a fine stop one-on-one to keep the game goalless inside five minutes.
After a slightly scrappy opening to the game United carved open their first chance on goal when a delightful curling cross by Jevani Brown picked out Hepburn-Murphy at the far post. The youngster was within fractions of his first United goal with a header at close range but was denied by a fantastic reaction save from Scott Brown on 15 minutes.
A minute later Port Vale did find the back of Dimitar Mitov’s net only for the flag to be raised against Pope who was in an offside position from a set piece.
The U’s were not afraid to flood the Port Vale area when in attack and looked likely to register the opener as the first half reached the midway point. And so it proved as they broke the deadlock through David Amoo on 20 minutes when the winger cut inside onto his left foot and laced a shot from 18 yards which deflected beyond Brown.
The Valiants keeper denied George Maris the chance of doubling the advantage soon after, when he pushed the midfielder’s bobbling volley wide of the post.
Mitov’s only real remaining action of the first half came when the U’s shot stopper was required to calmly stop Luke Hannant’s drilled effort from ten yards low at his feet.
The Bulgarian showed great awareness ten minutes after half time too when he pounced quickly to his right to meet Mark Harris’ shot across the U’s goal which looked destined for the bottom corner.
United introduced Alec Jones, Reggie Lambe and Jake Doyle-Hayes in the second half as they attempted to see out the game.
Port Vale went closest when Luke Hannant rifled a half volley on the end of Tom Pope’s lay-off, which missed the top corner of the goal by the smallest of margins. And when Antony Kay did find the target with a vicious mid-range shot five minutes from time Mitov threw himself to the U’s rescue with a commendable two handed save to secure the three points.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Halliday, Taylor, Taft, Carroll, Amoo (Doyle-Hays, 79 mins), Deegan, Maris, Brown, Hepburn-Murphy (Lambe, 67 mins), Ibehre (Jones, 67 mins)
Bookings: Brown, Carroll
Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons (Whitfield, 85 mins), Joyce, Kay, Pope, Hannant, Rawlinson, Crookes, Smith, Harris (Montano, 70 mins), Clark
Attendance: 4,193 (311)
Man of the Match: Gary Deegan