AKPO SODJE scored with the last meaningful touch of the match to keep Town in touch at the top of the table.
The powerful striker headed home following a stoppage-time free-kick and there was time only for Darlington to kick-off before the final whistle was blown.
Town, in fact, were pushed all the way by a team who played much better than their bottom-of-the-table standing would suggest, and the victory owed much to Sodje's elder brother Efe.
The Nigerian international was commanding throughout alongside skipper Steve Yates and it was fitting he should be involved in the two pivotal moments of the match.
Firstly, just 11 minutes from time, Sodje was perfectly positioned near the line to clear a goalbound effort from Richard Logan after Phil Senior had struggled to hold onto a sharp cross from the right-hand wing.
Then, with seconds ticking away in the only minute of added time, Sodje rose to win Anthony Lloyd's inswinging free-kick at the back post and his brother added the decisive touch from close range with a well-placed downward header.
It was an important one for second-placed Town as they remain level with Doncaster, who beat Grimsby yesterday, and five points adrift of the leaders, Scunthorpe, who are the opponents at Glanford Park in the final match of the season.
Town twice went close to scoring in the first half with Lee Fowler's free-kick being touched away by keeper Michael Price and Akpo Sodje firing over when it seemed easier to score from Pawel Abbott's pass, but they appeared to be just going through the motions.
Transfer-listed Fowler was taken off at the break - Aaron Hardy joining Michael Collins in central midfield with substitute James Hand on the left - and there was more urgency as Akpo, Efe and Abbott all went close.
Matthew Young was also involved in some dangerous raids in a match watched by Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy.
Town: Senior, Brown, Lloyd, Fowler (Hand, HT), Yates, E Sodje, Hardy, Collins, Abbott, A Sodje, Young. Subs not used: Sheridan, Eastwood, Caulfield, Shaw, Evans.