NERVY rather than compelling, but Town's second win in 10 matches was very welcome indeed.
Peter Jackson's side looked set fair when Danny Schofield and Pawel Abbott fired them into a two-goal lead in only seven and a half minutes.
But Vale hit back with a Simon Eldershaw header seven minutes before the break and pushed Town all the way with some pacy counter-attacks in a nail-biting second half.
It wasn't the greatest of entertainment for a Boxing Day crowd of 12,243, which included scouts from Liverpool, Southampton and Newcastle, but all that mattered was a first League double of the season to push Town up to 12th, five points off the play-off placings.
As had been expected, Jackson changed formation to 4-4-2 and, while it was far from plain sailing, he was rewarded with a first Galpharm win in two months.
It was a massive relief, because Town had been treading water in the League I standings and desperately needed the lift of three points.
Perhaps the most significant contribution came from John McAliskey, the teenage frontman who burst on the scene last season but who was recalled for only his third start of the current campaign.
Low on confidence, or so we were told, McAliskey looked anything but as he twice played a part in the opening goal, laid on with help from Abbott and Tony Carss before Schofield applied the finish with a rising left-foot drive.
It was an excellently crafted strike, right from Paul Rachubka's well-struck free-kick, and it looked like Vale would crumble as they had done at home (when Abbott's hat trick beat them 3-0 in September) when the Polish frontman curled in his 16th of the season from Chris Brandon's inside pass.
At that stage, Town were rampant and only a heavy touch from Abbott enabled Jonny Brain to save when McAliskey - showing all his silky skills - had split the defence once again.
A goal then would have killed the game, but Vale suddenly started to find their passing range, Town didn't seem as sharp in the tackle and the visitors' rally was on.
It reached a crescendo when Eldershaw headed in at the back post from Chris Birchall's terrific cross, but there had already been one almighty scramble in Rachubka's box and a shot over the top from Billy Paynter, who proved a handful throughout for the battling Efe Sodje.
On more than one occasion, Town needed the calming influence of Nathan Clarke to come to the fore, and he showed tremendous reading of the game while breaking up a succession of attacks.
Leading at the break, Town could have done with the luxury of restoring a two-goal advantage and they went perilously close.
Only four minutes of the second half had been played when Abbott let the ball run superbly to McAliskey, who then delivered a perfect reverse pass to leave his colleague with only Brain to beat.
Jackson, jumping up and down on the touchline, couldn't believe it when the keeper managed to flap Abbott's shot for a corner.
Birchall's pace was at the heart of Vale's riposte and Rachubka was twice forced to block blistering drives before tipping over the best shot of the lot.
Town, unable to keep possession for long enough at that stage, were on the back foot, and it needed some fearless battling from the skipper, Jon Worthington, to help them hold sway.
He squared a pass for Abbott on 69 minutes which brought a scooped shot over the bar, but openings were few and far between as Vale, roared on by travelling support totalling 967, countered smartly with some quick and accurate throws from Brain and some neat interchanges of passing.
Schofield, playing wide on the left with Brandon on the opposite flank, looked the man most likely to force a breakthrough for Town, although he ended up getting pushed deeper and deeper as the Galpharm faithful lived on their nerves.
Hearts were in mouths when Rachubka missed a punch deep into stoppage time, leading to a frantic melee, but the whistle brought relief for Town and added another disappointing chapter to Vale's miserable away record which now reads nine defeats in 12 matches.
Next: Man of the Match >>>
Man of the Match: John McAliskey
JUST pipped Nathan Clarke to the award. Considering he's been frozen out this term, it was a great effort by Macca and, while he didn't score, he led the line well and created plenty
How they rated:
Paul Rachubka Made two vital saves from wingman Birchall at the start of the second half which took the sting out of Vale Rating: 7/10
Andy Holdsworth Did his best work in the first half, when one great cross ought to have been smashed in by Schofield. Worked hard throughout Rating: 7/10
Rob Edwards Had a tough time against the speedy Birchall and was taken off. Earlier made a couple of terrific tackles Rating: 6/10
Nathan Clarke Commanding once again at the back, where his reading of the game marked him out. Very solid contribution Rating: 8/10
Efe Sodje Had a niggly battle with Paynter which looked like it might boil over at one stage. Won some brave headers. Rating: 7/10
Tony Carss Made some excellent forward runs in a bright opening and grafted hard with Worthington in the centre of midfield Rating: 7/10
Jon Worthington Left a few studmarks on a few Vale shins, although it was no easy game for the midfield as they were pushed hard Rating: 7/10
John McAliskey Did a splendid job for the team on his return to the starting line-up, winning headers and showing his clever skills on the ball Rating: 8/10
Danny Schofield Scored a cracking opening goal, his fourth of the season, and might have had another as he did well on the left Rating: 7/10
Pawel Abbott Took his tally for the season to 16 with what proved the winner. Also denied by a fine save from Brain on 49 mins Rating: 7/10
Chris Brandon Used his pace to good effect when tracking back to cover quick breaks from Vale. Did well on the right flank Rating: 7/10
Port Vale: Brain, Pilkington, Loran, Cummins, Paynter, J Smith, Brown, Rowland, Birchall, Eldershaw (Reid 74), Hulbert (Matthews 74).
Subs not used: Anyon, Abbey, D Smith.