Cheltenham Town narrowly lost the Gloucestershire derby after Christian Doidge’s late first half strike was enough for Forest Green Rovers to take all three points at the LCI Rail Stadium.
Just like in the reverse fixture at The New Lawn, Doidge opened the scoring after combining well with Reuben Reid on the edge of the box, then rifling an unstoppable shot into the top corner after 43 minutes.
Despite a spirited second half display, Cheltenham were unable to find a way back into the game, as the visitors boosted their survival hopes with victory.
Gary Johnson made two changes to the side that beat Morecambe last week, as Joe Rodon and Carl Winchester replaced Will Boyle and George Lloyd.
Defender Jordon Forster made his long-awaited return to the squad, starting on the bench.
There was a great atmosphere inside a packed LCI Rail Stadium as Reuben Reid forced an early corner for the visitors after his long-range shot hit Jamie Grimes and looped over the crossbar.
In the sixth minute, Joe Morrell’s deep free-kick was headed over by a Rovers defender for a corner at the Speedy Skips End, but goalkeeper Brad Collins was fouled when the set-piece was crossed in.
After Reece Brown switched the play well in the 11th minute, left-back Scott Laird whipped in a dangerous cross, but Scott Flinders bravely claimed the ball at the feet of Doidge.
It took until the 25-minute mark for the first Cheltenham shot on target as Winchester’s attempted curler was caught by Collins between the sticks.
The Robins captain then tried to pick out Jamie Grimes with a clipped through-ball, but the defender failed to get a touch to bring it down inside the penalty box.
In the 33rd minute Chris Clements forced Flinders to tip the ball over the crossbar with a dipping free-kick after Ilias Chatzitheodoridis committed a foul on the edge of the box.
Five minutes later a surprising burst forward from Taylor Moore saw him beat his man on the edge of the Forest Green penalty area and hit a shot just wide of Collins’ far post as the hosts started to grow into the game late into the half.
Mo Eisa then chased down Rodon’s header from a corner and found Jerell Sellars on the edge of the box, but his low cross-shot was just missed by the sliding Harry Pell at the far post.
But in the 43rd minute, Forest Green got in behind and after a quick passing move between Reid and Doidge, the latter smashed into the top corner to give Mark Cooper’s side the lead at half-time with his 17th League Two goal of the season.
Winchester tried his luck again early in the second half as his deflected effort was gathered by Collins before Forest Green launched a counter-attack as Reid was released into space out wide - but Brown’s shot on the turn was smartly held by Flinders.
The Robins then broke away themselves after winning the ball back but once again Winchester shot off target as the hosts desperately tried to find a way back into the derby.
Gavin Gunning’s backheel flick just dropped wide before Eisa cut inside and tried to find the bottom corner at the other end, but Collins made a good diving save to push it wide as the match opened up on the hour mark in the sunny Cotswolds.
A messy situation inside the home penalty box resulted in a ping-pong situation before Haydn Hollis spurned a great chance to settle the game, smashing over from close-range but his blushes were spared by the offside flag.
Danny Wright was introduced for Cheltenham, replacing Harry Pell in the 68th minute as Johnson looked to add more firepower in the hope of finding a leveller.
Brian Graham followed suit in coming on with 15 minutes to go for Nigel Atangana as the Robins went all-out-attack.
The increased aerial presence up top nearly made an instant impact as a header down from a free-kick fell to Eisa, who sliced a half-volley wide despite appealing that it took a deflection.
A rare opportunity at the other end was headed wide by Doidge, who stretched but failed to get a telling touch on a free-kick.
Cooper’s side held on though, to secure a rare away victory at the LCI Rail Stadium.
ROBINS: Flinders (Gk), Grimes, Atangana (Graham 76), Pell (Wright 68), Winchester, Sellars (Andrews 84), Eisa, Morrell, Rodon, Moore, Chatzitheodoridis. Subs not used: Lovett (Gk), Cranston, Forster, Lloyd.
FOREST GREEN: Collins (Gk), Laird, Collins, Doidge, Brown (Grubb 73), Gunning, Rawson, Clements (Bray 79), Reid (Campbell 86), Hollis, Osbourne. Subs not used:Bennett, Cooper, Wishart, Belford (Gk).
REFEREE: Ollie Yates
ATTENDANCE: 4,744 (765 from Forest Green)