Port Vale 3 West Bromwich Albion 1
Tony Naylor pushed Albion's downwardly mobile toboggan towards an 11th straight league defeat at Vale Park. The little Vale striker is perfectly formed for these occasions when the pitch is somewhere between tricky and treacherous and a low centre of gravity is a benefit, especially against defenders like West Brom's.
For 45 minutes referee Trevor West's decision to give the game a late go-ahead seemed a folly. Fortunately these two sides do not come from the cloven hoof category and their attempts to play football guaranteed that the action would improve without any injury to limb.
Two goals in the space of four minutes after half-time left Vale seasonally leap-frogging their rivals with their third straight home triumph, fashioned from clever and sensible attacking play.
Jon McCarthy sent Naylor racing clear with a quick first-time pass and the small forward placed a perfect shot in off the far post. Once more McCarthy found Naylor in the area and his balance allowed him to toe-poke a cross to Martin Foyle for a simple tap in four minutes later.
Urged on by jack-in-the-box manager Alan Buckley, Albion threatened a comeback, but all too briefly. Dave Gilbert's 20-yarder dipped over the badly positioned Musselwhite for their 64th-minute consolation.
However, Vale were too crafty on the break and Albion too vulnerable in defence for the points to go back down the M6, a fact confirmed by the third and conclusive goal from Vale.
The most flowing passing sequence of the game was interrupted by Stuart Naylor saving from Foyle only for Steve Guppy to pick up the loose ball, trick winger Kevin Donovan in his own area and score from the blue-painted by-line.
Albion were downcast and Buckley spent 40 minutes in a locked dressing room afterwards giving them the benefit of his bonhomie.
Goals: Naylor (48) 1-0; Foyle (52) 2-0; Gilbert (64 2-1; Guppy (88) 3-1.
Port Vale (4-4-2): Musselwhite; Hill, Griffiths, Glover, Tankard; McCarthy, Porter, Bogie, Guppy; Foyle, Naylor. Substitutes not used: Mills, Talbot, Van Heusden (gk).
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Naylor; Burgess, Mardon, Raven, Smith; Donovan, Darby, Gilbert (Rees, 80), Hamilton; Taylor, Hunt. Substitutes not used: Edwards, Reece (gk).
Referee: T West (Hull).
Man of the match: Naylor. Attendance: 10,807