WONDER goal or defensive gaffe? However you view Simon Hackney's strike for Carlisle, it completely changed the complexion of this contest.
Put firmly in the driving seat by a Luke Beckett brace, the second a penalty, Town were on cruise control - until Hackney pulled one back on 43 minutes.
Carlisle came out for the second half looking like a side who believed they could claim at least a point.
And Town, whose five-man midfield failed to function anything like as efficiently after the turnaround, were more than happy to hear the final whistle.
Just two minutes before it sounded, Paul Thirwell brought a great save from former Carlisle keeper Matt Glennon, who pushed his shot away for a corner.
And three minutes before that (the 89th), Peter Murphy rapped the left-hand angle of post and bar direct from a 20-yard free-kick.
Other chances fell to Hackney, who had a drive deflected for a corner, Paul Arnison, who hooked a shot over, Jermaine Beckford, who put an audacious lob just too high and Thirlwell, whose sizzler was blocked by the joint efforts of Andy Holdsworth and Mark Hudson.
Town's post-break best was a low 52nd-minute shot by Hudson which was comfortably collected by Kieron Westwood.
What a shame Beckett didn't get a decent chance to complete a hat trick, because the two that came his way in the first half were put away with real aplomb.
The first, on 21 minutes, showed the striker at his best.
He might have been played in by Hackney's misplaced back pass, but still had to evade the clutches of Town old boy Kevin Gray and leave keeper Westwood floundering, which he did with confidence before rolling home a left-foot shot.
Hackney thought he had atoned for the mistake within 60 seconds, but his header from Kevin Gall's cross was ruled out for offside.
But Town were looking by far the livelier of the two teams, and Danny Schofield came close after cutting in from the left to fire a low-angled shot across the face of Westwood's goal in the 25th minute.
On 32, Town were two up.
Jarnail Singh's penalty decision appeared a touch harsh, with Murphy ruled to have handled Beckett's cross when it appeared more a case of ball to elbow.
In the Middlesex whistler's defence, he was close to the action, and showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Westwood correctly dived to his right, but Beckett's shot, this time with his right foot, was both powerful and accurate, and sped into the corner of the net.
With Carlisle offering little up front, it looked like it would be plain sailing for Town.
But then Chris Lumsdon played a looping ball from his own half and Hackney got goalside of right-back Tom Clarke, who had needed lengthy treatment on a knee injury early on and left the field on a stretcher soon after the goal.
While Clarke might or might not have been hampered by the injury as Hackney broke through, Glennon will surely have been disappointed that the left-foot shot flew into his top right-hand corner.
Had Carlisle gone on to get an equaliser, it would have been Simon Hackney's 43rd-minute goal. Because they didn't, it has to be the penalty given against Peter Murphy on 32 for a debatable handball and put away powerfully by Luke Beckett. It put Town in the driving seat, but they were to lose a little control somewhat later on.
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How they rated:
Matt Glennon Mixed match against one of his former clubs. Made some telling stops but will have been annoyed to concede. Rating: 7/10
Tom Clarke Was the right-back hampered by a knee injury when he allowed Simon Hackney to get goalside and fire home? Rating: 6/10
Andy Holdsworth With Danny Adams suspended, moved from right to left-back and did well, making a string of key challenges. Rating: 7/10
Martin McIntosh Another solid display from the dependable Scot. Looked sure both on the ground and in the air. Rating: 7/10
Nathan Clarke Maintained the standard he had set at Bradford the week before. Looking far more comfortable. Rating: 7/10
Matty Young Started on the right side of midfield and looked lively. Then moved to right-back and worked very hard. Rating: 7/10
Jon Worthington Didn't catch the eye quite as much as at Bradford, but put in a solid shift as he battled it out with Chris Billy. Rating: 6/10
Mark Hudson Like Worthington, the ex-Carlisle man wasn't quite as influential this week, but stuck at it nonetheless. Rating: 6/10
Danny Schofield Produced one good effort in the first half, but overall, the midfielder couldn't impose himself on the match. Rating: 6/10
Michael Collins Very effective in the first half, but like the team as a whole, didn't look nearly as sure in the second. Rating: 6/10
Luke Beckett Took his goals really well and worked tirelessly as the lone frontman for the second week running. Rating: 8/10
Spotlight on the ref:
Middlesex man in the middle Jarnail Singh was certainly close to the action - on several occasions he got in the way of a man and once the ball - and his decision to give Town a penalty for handball looked a little harsh.
But on the plus side he kept the game flowing well and kept cautions to a minimum.
Carlisle: Westwood, Murphy, Billy, Gray, Lumsdon (G Murray, 68mins), Thirlwell, Arnison, Hackney, Aranalde, Beckford (Holmes, 83mins), Gall. Subs not used: Livesey, Joyce, Williams. Cautions: Lumsdon, Arnison.