Pagham surged six points clear at the top of division one of the Sussex League by beating nearest rivals Rye 2-1 on their own patch.
Despite having the lion’s share of the play, Rye suffered a second successive league defeat as a two-goal deficit proved too much to overcome.
Pagham were whiskers away from opening the scoring after 12 minutes when a 25-yard strike from captain Daren Pearce rattled the face of Joe Winchester’s crossbar.
But Pagham did go in front two minutes later. Scott Murfin shook off Sean Kelly on the right-hand side of the box and his low cross-shot was palmed out by the diving Winchester for Ross Wolfe to drive home the rebound.
Rye were on top for the rest of the first half with the Pagham goal surviving three or four close calls.
Sam Adams headed narrowly over after Matt Maclean turned Tom Broadbent. A terrific left-foot volley from Shaun Loft following Duncan McArthur’s corner was well saved by Wes Hallett and a similar effort by Scott Ramsay from Paul Watson’s left-wing cross was just too high.
A well-struck Adams shot from 25 yards, which took a slight deflection, was saved low down.
The first half spanned more than 54 minutes because of a lengthy injury stoppage when Woolf was caught late by Luke Woodley in an aerial challenge and was carried off before an ambulance arrived during half-time.
James Temple headed just over at the near post from Broadbent’s 54th minute corner in Pagham’s first attack of the second half.
The Lions doubled their advantage five minutes later. A corner from the left by Pearce was flicked on at the near post by Phil Turner and Paul Jones headed home from around six yards.
Rye might have gone further behind had the unmarked Murfin made meaningful contact with an attempted glancing header from Pearce’s free-kick.
McArthur saw a low shot from distance well held and Tate was denied by Hallett at point-blank range before McArthur curled a delightful 81st-minute free kick from just outside the box into the far top corner.
Despite six minutes of added time, Rye never looked like fashioning an equaliser. And Pagham went close to a third when Turned forced Winchester into a low save.