FOLLOWING three comfortable league victories in succession, Dudley were forced to dig deep to beat Walsall in a ding-dong local derby.

In a thrill a minute encounter, victory was only secured by a Gareth Bown penalty in stoppage time.

The tightest of victories still gives DK an outside chance of a playoff spot assuming they can win their last league game at home to Stratford and champions Bromsgrove can topple Hereford away.

DK dominated the opening exchanges and went ahead after four minutes.

A typical bustling break through the middle from Andy McEwen had the Walsall cover in disarray and Sam Pedley following up took the scoring pass to open DK’s account with Bown adding the conversion.

Walsall hit back with a period of heavy pressure but it was DK that forged further ahead after 11 minutes with a spectacular try.

Stefan Shillingford’s superb 45-metre midfield break and pass saw Robbie Jones in for DK’s second try with Bown again converting.

The home side redoubled their efforts and were rewarded with a try after 13 minutes when DK allowed Walsall’s Chris Mould far too much space and the full-back sprinted through a large gap to score.

Fly-half Matt Wood converted.

Suitably encouraged the home side surged forward and the visitors began to concede penalties from one of which Wood closed the gap to four points with a 23rd minute effort.

DK should have increased their lead after 26 minutes after Jak Davis broke clear on the right, but his pass to Robbie Jones was adjudged forward.

The hosts took advantage of this and were ahead only a minute later when DK lost the ball infield and a strong Walsall attack through the middle saw the ball spun to former DK wing Adam Conniff who sprinted in for an unconverted try.

DK rallied and had the lead at the break following an injury time penalty from Bown.

Walsall came out strongly at the beginning of the half but Wood was wide with a 42nd minute penalty.

They did go ahead shortly afterwards, however, with a 47th minute unconverted try from Conniff, who again showed good pace to finish off a straightforward three-quarter move.

With their tails up, Walsall continued to press hard and after 50 minutes Mould was amazingly allowed a 25-metre wide vacant corridor to saunter through for his second try.

Wood added the extras to give the hosts a 27-17 lead with half hour to play. Now in serious danger of losing the game, DK began to make inroads. They squandered a couple of glorious opportunities but Bown held his nerve to bring DK three points closer with a 64th minute penalty, after which DK visibly upped the ante and for the first time in the game Walsall began to flag a little.

Wood and Mould had worked wonders clearing several dynamic DK attacks to touch, but the DK boys kept coming and the game reached fever pitch after 78 minutes when DK scored a superb try in the corner. Andy McEwen and Robbie Jones combined well to set up Shillingford for a tilt at the corner. He smashed through a couple of tackles with great determination, was brought down just short but managed to stretch out an arm to touch down for a real gutsy try.

Bown missed the difficult conversion but atoned perfectly with an injury time penalty in front of the posts to the delight of the travelling DK contingent.