Grimsby Town were beaten at home as Exeter City won comfortably at Blundell Park.
The visitors opened the scoring through Ryan Bowman on 20 minutes but Town responded well and were level just after the half-hour when Luke Hendrie made it 1-1.
That signalled the start of the Mariners’ best spell of the game but two Randell Williams goals just before half-time swung the balance back in favour of Exeter.
And as Town showed few signs of getting back into the contest after the break, Matt Jay’s close-range finish put the result beyond doubt.
Just one change was made to the Grimsby starting XI following the victory at Crawley last time out, with Harry Clifton replacing the injured Max Wright.
James McKeown began in goal, with Hendrie, Duncan Idehen, Luke Waterfall and Danny Preston forming an unchanged defence.
Elliott Hewitt and Danny Rose acted as holding midfielders behind Clifton, Sean Scannell and Owura Edwards, with Matt Green leading the line in attack.
The substitutes were Ollie Battersby, Terry Taylor, Virgil Gomis, Mattie Pollock, Joe Starbuck, Luis Adlard and Kyle Bennett.
Exeter sat fifth in the League Two table at kick-off, nine points ahead of their 18th-placed hosts and just one adrift of the top three.
They came into the game after securing a place in the third round of the FA Cup with a 3-2 victory at League One Gillingham on Saturday and that followed a 6-1 win against Colchester last time out in the league.
The visitors won the first corner of the game on five minutes when a cross from Josh Key on the right was headed behind but they were unable to turn it into a chance in front of goal.
McKeown was called into action for the first time two minutes later when a ball across the Town box was intercepted by striker Bowman. He played it to Jay but the keeper made a good block when the shot came in.
At the other end, Edwards made his way into the penalty area from the left but Hewitt was penalised for a handball when the ball was pulled back.
A searching, cross-field ball almost brought a chance for Edwards on 14 minutes but defender Pierce Sweeney was the one to bring it under control before clearing the danger.
A Town corner from the right was headed clear as the Mariners enjoyed their best-attacking spell of the game so far.
But when the deadlock was broken on 19 minutes, it was Exeter who took the lead. A corner from the left was not fully dealt with by the home defence and after the ball was played back into the box, BOWMAN was in the right place to steer it past McKeown.
Town’s response saw Hewitt shoot wide from 18 yards after good work by Edwards, then Edwards’ persistence saw him win a corner on the left but the ball from the flag was headed clear.
A mistake by Idehen on the halfway line led to a chance for Exeter to double their advantage as Jack Taylor raced clear but he could not beat McKeown, who stood tall to block the shot at his near post.
The Mariners created a good chance on 28 minutes when Edwards and Preston linked up down the left. The left-back crossed for Green but his header was caught by keeper Jonny Maxted.
Town kept pressing and three minutes later, they were level. Scannell was the architect, twisting and turning his way into the box on a superb run before chipping a great cross to the far post for HENDRIE to bundle the ball into the net.
After the goal, the hosts went in search of more and Edwards did well to win a corner when a cross from Hendrie broke for him after another good ball by Scannell.
Hendrie was the first to see a yellow card after a foul on 35 minutes, with Town now doing most of the attacking.
But the away side reclaimed their lead five minutes before the break. A through-ball from Archie Collins found WILLIAMS and he slotted it past McKeown and into the far corner of the net.
The Mariners had played well for much of the half but they fell further behind on 44 minutes when they were caught out down the Exeter right. Key cut into the box and played a low ball across the face of goal, where WILLIAMS took advantage to grab his second and the visitors’ third of the evening.
Two added minutes were played at the end of the half and with no further opportunities for either side, Exeter went in 3-1 up at the break, despite the Mariners’ best efforts.
Pollock replaced Idehen as the home side made the first substitution of the game ahead of the restart.
An early free-kick was delivered into the box by Rose but the ball was hooked wide by Hendrie at the far post.
Scannell created an opening on 49 minutes with a run into the penalty area from the right but his low cross was punched clear by Maxted at his near post.
Rose was booked for a foul on Jay as Exeter re-established their grip on the game, with the visitors dictating the play.
A long-range shot from Key looped up after taking a deflection and McKeown had to tip the ball over his bar for a corner.
The Town keeper also came off his line to gather a cross from Williams as the away side continued to look dangerous.
Bennett and Gomis replaced Clifton and Green on 64 minutes and a home penalty appeal came a minute later as a shot by Scannell was blocked but the handball claims were waved away by the referee.
And the result was put beyond doubt four minutes later when Exeter made it 4-1. A shot by Joel Randall was blocked but the rebound fell for JAY and with McKeown on the floor, he had the simple task of slotting the ball into the net.
Key was booked for a foul on the Town left and the latest substitution came before the free-kick was taken, with Adlard replacing Edwards. The ball to the far post was then headed clear.
A long kick downfield by keeper Maxted on 80 minutes led to an Exeter corner, which was headed clear by Scannell.
Hewitt was replaced by Taylor in Town’s last change, with Alex Hartridge and Nigel Atangana coming on for Williams and Randall for Exeter at the same time.
Alex Fisher replaced Bowman as the visitors made another change on 85 minutes and they won a corner on the right soon afterwards but were unable to cause any problems from it.
Nicky Ajose and Nicky Law replaced Jay and Jake Taylor in Exeter’s fourth and fifth substitutions just before the game entered five added minutes.
And the away side closed out the remainder of the match to move into the division’s automatic promotion places.
Town are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Colchester United.
- James McKeown (C)
- Luke Hendrie
- Danny Preston
- Luke Waterfall
- Duncan Idehen
- Danny Rose
- Elliott Hewitt
- Harry Clifton
- Matt Green
- Sean Scannell
- Owura Edwards
- Ollie Battersby
- Matthew Pollock
- Kyle Bennett
- Joseph Starbuck
- Terry Taylor
- Luis Adlard
- Virgil Gomis
- Jon Maxted
- Joshua Key
- Jack Sparkes
- Pierce Sweeney
- Tom Parkes
- Jake Taylor (C)
- Randell Williams
- Archie Collins
- Joel Randall MF
- Ryan Bowman
- Matt Jay
- Harry Lee
- Alex Hartridge
- Rory McArdle
- Nigel Atangana
- Nicky Law
- Nicky Ajose
- Alex Fisher
Referee: James Oldham
Next Up: Colchester United