TUNED-UP Town looked like a play-off force once again as they earned a richly deserved victory at the County Ground last night.
Roared on by manager Peter Jackson and 298 travelling fans, Town turned in a thoroughly professional performance marred only by the late sending-off of Lee Fowler.
First-half goals from Pawel Abbott and the outstanding Chris Brandon left Swindon wondering what had hit them and, while they rallied after the dismissal of ex-Town loanee Jerel Ifil, the only reward was a last-minute strike from substitute Grant Smith.
While that was a shame for Paul Rachubka and his tremendous defence, because they deserved a clean sheet, Town rarely looked likely to miss out on a first win in seven.
Right from the off, Town closed down Swindon impressively in all areas of the pitch and they also passed the ball much more incisively than Andy King's men, despite a highly slippery surface.
While Jackson opted to use Abbott as a lone forward and re-introduce Fowler to midfield, the hot pace of Brandon meant Town always had extra options going forward and Swindon looked scared to death.
The Wiltshire fans, who watched their club lose in the play-offs last season, were already voicing their concerns when Town took the lead on 19 minutes.
Nathan Clarke supplied the all-important pass which caught Swindon cold, but Rob Edwards - making his first start in three months - did magnificently to force his way into the box and square for Abbott, who made no mistake with only Rhys Evans to beat from eight yards.
It was a goal which owed everything to clever approach play, while the second on 34 minutes was brutally direct but equally well thought out and executed.
Catching a corner to underline his superb domination of the box, Rachubka quickly advanced and launched an inviting clearance for Brandon to chase.
He knew Ifil would get there first, but sensing the defender's unease as he tracked back towards his own goal, Brandon nicked the ball away and planted a lovely shot beyond Evans which went in off the righthand post.
Town's fans were loving it, and so were the players.
Efe Sodje and David Mirfin did commanding marking jobs on Sam Parkin and Christian Roberts, while Clarke mopped up every scrap they didn't get.
Andy Holdsworth and Rob Edwards shone on the flanks, while the solid midfield bank of four, with Fowler and Tony Carss in the centre, Brandon on the left and Jon Worthington on the right, mixed skill and menace in equal measure.
Clever movement and passing allied to some crunching tackles gave Town a decided edge while Abbott could easily have had a couple more goals as he found inviting pockets of space to attack the box.
There were more after Ifil's stupid dismissal.
Booked for a trip on Brandon as he was outpaced in the 48th minute, the former Watford defender - known as The Beast - was lucky to escape punishment when pushing the tricky midfielder into advertising hoardings only two minutes later.
With the red mist still down, however, he squared up to Abbott right in front of referee Andy Woolmer and was quickly pointed down the tunnel.
It was symptomatic of how the Northampton official lost control after that, however, that he had to consult long and hard with his assistant before giving Fowler the same punishment for a strong, two-footed challenge on Smith with four minutes left on the clock.
It signalled a defiant burst from Swindon in which former Town captain Steve Jenkins crossed for Smith to chest down and score, and the home side launched several testing punts into the box in the four minutes of added time at the end.
Rachubka held firm, though, and the manager punched the air at the end before greeting every one of his players as they left the pitch.
A tactical triumph for Jacko and a much-needed shot in the arm for his play-off hopes.
Man of the Match: Chris Brandon
Hasn't played better all season and was the very heartbeat of a splendid all-round team performance with his pace, trickery and effort, not to mention a very well taken goal.
How they rated:
Paul Rachubka Excellent handling and punching gave the defence confidence and superb clearance for Brandon's goal. Rating: 8/10
Andy Holdsworth Cracked in a couple of decent shots as he got forward well. Unlucky to be booked but did some fine defensive work Rating: 8/10
Rob Edwards Wonderful early block to stop Roberts scoring summed up the display. Created Abbott's goal with an excellent raid Rating: 8/10
Nathan Clarke Masterly at the back once again and it was his fine through ball which put Swindon on edge for Town's opener Rating: 8/10
Efe Sodje Great to see the big man back in such super form. Marked Parkin almost out of the game. Terrific contribution Rating: 8/10
David Mirfin Christian Roberts can be an awkward striker but he didn't get a look in against Mirf. Tackles, headers and solid graft Rating: 8/10
Tony Carss Despite wasting odd set pieces, he picked out some lovely passes and worked hard to give Town the upper hand Rating: 8/10
Jon Worthington A first victory as skipper and he really got stuck in to put Swindon on the back foot. Closed them down magnificently Rating: 8/10
Lee Fowler Took the edge off a nice solid display with a two footed lunge at Smith which left him open to a straight red card Rating: 8/10
Pawel Abbott Slotted his 14th goal of the season very neatly and worked hard as Town's lone frontman. Booked late on Rating: 8/10
Chris Brandon Scared Swindon to death with his pace, took his goal really well and worked tirelessly for the whole 90 minutes Rating: 9/10
Spotlight on the ref:
NORTHAMPTON official Andy Woolmer seemed pretty indecisive through the game and, after the correct dismissal of Jerel Ifil early in the second half to leave Swindon with 10 men, you just felt he was going to even things up before the end. Indeed, the next Town tackle after Ifil's red, by Holdsworth near the touchline, was immediately punished with a yellow card as home fans demanded action. Town's Fowler could count himself a little unlucky to see red, although a two-footed jumping tackle isn't often a wise move.
Swindon Town: Evans, Ifil, O'Hanlon, Duke (Smith 78), Jenkins, Heywood, Hewlett (Fallon 70), Robinson, Howard, Parkin, Roberts.
Subs not used: Book, Nicholas, Garrard.