Guthrie and Etete on target as Cobblers defy Oldham fightback to claim three points
Cobblers got the better of old boss Keith Curle with a nervy 2-1 victory over his Oldham Athletic side at Sixfields on Tuesday.
Jon Guthrie poked Town ahead with their first chance of the game and they appeared comfortable thereafter, especially once they added a superb second through Kion Etete's smart finish.
But the home side were sloppy and sluggish in the second-half and should count themselves fortunate to come away with all three points.
Carl Piergianni's scruffy goal was followed by three or four good chances for the struggling visitors, but they failed to take any of them to let Cobblers off the hook.
A win is a win and Town are back up to fourth in League Two with it but they will need to produce a whole lot more against fellow promotion hopefuls Leyton Orient on Saturday.
Etete was declared fit after being forced off injured against Bradford City at the weekend, allowing manager Jon Brady to pick an unchanged starting XI.
The opening exchanges were scrappy and cagey and without much quality as the two teams tussled to gain control of the contest.
Scrappy was also an apt way to describe the game's opening goal as Town broke the deadlock with their first real attack on 15 minutes.
Oldham were all at sea defend Mitch Pinnock free-kick and after a bit of pinball in the area, the ball broke kindly for Guthrie to stab into the net.
That goal put the wind into Northampton's sails and they then had a dominant five-minute spell during which Ali Koiki went so close to a second when his cross-shot was diverted just wide via a defender.
Oldham were looking to re-establish a foothold in the game but instead they fell further behind seven minutes before the break, cut apart by a terrific move from the hosts.
Shaun McWilliams spread a wonderful first time ball out to Pinnock and he delivered an equally superb cross that was neatly volleyed home by Etete.
Sam Hoskins dragged a good chance well wide after Oldham's struggling defence stood still before the visitors squandered a rare opportunity themselves, with Zak Dearnley's shot comfortable for Liam Roberts.
A clearly unhappy Curle made a triple substitution at half-time and that seemed to do the trick as Oldham halved the deficit through Piergianni's scrappy finish at the back post nine minutes into the second-half.
Cobblers were now very much in a game and only wasteful finishing stopped them from being pegged back as Davis Keillor-Dunn scuffed a volley and Hallam Hope glanced wide.
Town, having been so comfortable in the first-half, just could not get control of the game and again they were fortunate not to concede when Jamie Hopcutt blazed over following a scramble in the penalty box.
The home side lacked composure and calmness but did somehow cling on, albeit largely thanks to Oldham's lack of quality in the final third.
Cobblers: Roberts, McGowan, Horsfall (c), Guthrie, Koiki, McWilliams, Sowerby (Rose 79), Lewis, Hoskins (Connolly 88), Pinnock, Etete (Kabamba 83)
Subs not used: Maxted, Dyche, Flores, Pollock
Oldham: Leutwiler, Hart, Piergianni (c), McGahey, Fage, Bowden, Whelan, Cisse (Bahamboula 45), Couto (Hope 45), Dearnley (Hopcutt 45), Keillor-Dunn
Subs not used: Southerington, Adams, Stobbs, Bettache
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Oldham fans: 132