ANDY BOOTH made it a merry Christmas for 2,000 travelling fans and put Town right back in the play-off hunt.
The fact that Peter Jackson's side got full value for his 28th-minute strike, however, was down to a gritty defensive show and a first clean sheet away from home in almost eight months.
As a performance and an entertainment, this was nothing to sing carols about, but the result was paramount and it could prove a watershed for a squad who have massively under-achieved on their travels so far.
Confidence has been lacking on those trips thanks to seven defeats in eight in all competitions, but judging by the hugs, high fives and Jackson's gesture of throwing a shirt into the crowd at the end, much of that has been restored in the chilly, rain-lashed Reynolds Arena.
Not that Town had it easy, far from it.
Phil Senior made three top-class saves to deny Darlington's best efforts and, when he was struggling to reach a vicious free-kick from Craig James at the height of home pressure in the second half, the bar came to his assistance.
The clean sheet - a first away from the McAlpine since the 1-0 League win at Swindon in April - was reward for Senior's agility and the resilience of a back line which has been all too fragile on foreign soil so far.
Steve Yates was outstanding - adding brave blocks to some fierce tackles and sensible clearances - while Efe Sodje and Nathan Clarke let no-one down and wing-backs Nat Brown and Anthony Lloyd never shirked the flying studs.
Senior was still stretched to keep out Ashley Nicholls early on and, crucially, Lee Matthews just before half time and, when Nicholls tried again at the start of the second half, Senior did the trick once again with his righthand fingertips.
Oh how Darlington must have wished he'd been guarding their goal, because Michael Price cannot be absolved from blame in the goal.
Even though Jon Stead's shot from a Booth flick took a bounce in front of him, Price maybe should have held on instead of allowing the ball to balloon up for Booth to follow in and net the 96th goal of his Town career.
By then, with only a Lee Fowler drive to get excited about, Town had already had to make a significant change with Jon Worthington replacing Danny Schofield, who twisted a knee in the warm-up.
Worthington, playing for the first time in over a month due to suspension and surgery, looked keen to make up for lost time and gave Jackson's side all the drive they needed in central midfield.
It was important he kept going, too, because Town gave away possession far too easily, especially in the second half, and needed all their resolve to stay in front after Paul Scott had gone off to hospital for checks on an injured ankle.
When a team is charging down shots in fearless fashion, though, like Yates and Brown did in the closing stages, you get the feeling it's going to be your day and Jackson - who had 18-year-old Academy keeper Jacob Giles on the bench for the first time - need not have worried himself so much over Darlington's late attacks.
Club captain Rob Edwards, who went on for Scott, and Clarke made valuable clearances from in front of goal, while Fowler ploughed into a tackle on Neil Maddison when his name had already gone into the book.
Not wanting to risk another red, Jackson took the Welshman off 14 minutes from time and slotted Andy Holdsworth into the centre, where he helped to dampen the pacy threat of home substitute Mark Convery.
Town's travelling contingent in Darlington's second best crowd of the season (6,205) would no doubt have liked more attacking from Town in the second half, but opportunities were scarce.
Stead fired high with two decent shooting chances after outrunning the home defence, while his low cross towards the end was hastily booted away by Chris Hughes from the six-yard line.
There was a cheeky effort by Edwards, too, who tried to volley back a badly thrown clearance from Price, but his effort drifted well wide in the end.
That summed up much of the game - it was not the most enjoyable festive fare - but for fans who had seen their team take only one point from the last 15 away from home, the result gave them every reason to be cheerful.
They had queued in traffic jams from Wetherby and on the A66 and waited until 3.22pm for kick-off as stewards moved barriers to cram more Town fans in, but it was worth all the hassle.
It marked a first win, too, for the infamous black away shirt and Jackson confessed he had been planning to throw one to the fans when Town finally ended their miserable travelling run.
Let's hope he's getting rid of a lot more by the end of the season!