AFTER six games without defeat and nearly seven hours without conceding a goal, Lancaster City were dreaming of third place.
Then they ran into Alex Titchiner.
Witton’s top scorer helped himself to a brace – the second a picture book snapshot of the difference between the two teams – to extend Albion’s longest unbeaten league run this term.
The former Crewe front man will be coveted by other, higher-ranked clubs, and he added another example here to the list of reasons why.
His haul for the season stands at 35 from 50 starts in all competitions, and he’s not done yet.
“What can I say?”asked a clearly impressed Brian Pritchard afterwards.
“He just keeps on scoring; I had a perfect view of his second goal, it went like an arrow into the top corner.”
His opposite number, Lancaster boss Tony Hesketh, called the contest his team’s biggest of the campaign so far.
The Dolly Blues he sent out gave the impression it was anything but.
Albion were convincing victors despite being far from their fluid best, posing enough of an attacking threat to always give the impression they would score.
They went in front five minutes before the break when Titchiner was first to react to Danny Andrews’ cross after the winger had returned a partially cleared corner.
He made enough of a contact to squirm a shot past goalkeeper Martin Fearon.
Witton had gone closer earlier in a tepid opening; Andrews’ shot was taken off Chris Gahgan’s toe by Ryan Elderton, then a defender blocked Titchiner’s effort after Gahgan had turned provider.
At the other end, Alex Kenyon’s free kick flashed over.
Hesketh sent on Alex Meaney soon after the restart, but even he could not conjure an opening for a front line snuffed out easily by the visitors’ backline.
Anthony Sheehan shot weakly after Mathew Wood had raided down the left as Albion looked more likely scorers.
Titchiner’s moment of magic followed on 77 minutes, a sight of goal given to him by Oliver James’ well-timed interception and pass.
Witton’s match-winner took a touch with his right foot, then in the same movement speared a rising shot with his left into the net from 20 yards.
It was a goal to greet with a gasp.
Lancaster, perhaps playing for the first time without pressure, created their two best chances straight afterwards.
Simon Wills’ effort went close after he shot on the turn then Sam Edgerton-Wilson, shoved up front as an auxiliary attacker, prodded a lob goalwards that lacked the power to beat Matt Cooper.
Titchiner took the acclaim of Witton’s travelling supporters when he went off in stoppage time, a spell that included Cooper flooring Max Rothwell to concede a penalty.
Elderton scored with ease.
It could not prevent his side sliding out of the play-offs places, while Witton closed the gap to second-placed Curzon Ashton to three points with four matches left to play.
Lancaster (4-4-2) Fearon (GK), Henry, Edgerton-Wilson, Marshall, Elderton, Clark (Turner 57), Kenyon, Wills, Rothwell, Bunney (Gregson 82), Kilifin (Meaney 57)
Subs not used Cook, Hall
Goal Elderton 90 (+2) (penalty)
Booked Kenyon, Henry (both fouls)
Witton (4-4-2) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Harrison, Booth, Wood, Andrews, Sheehan, James (Cross 86), Hancock, Gahgan (Stott 75), Titchiner (Buchan 90)
Subs not used Schofield, Woolley
Goals Titchiner 40, 77
Booked James (ungentlemanly conduct)