MANAGER Tom Johnston rang the changes to get Town's top-flight bid back on track.
A 4-1 drubbing at Derby County had allowed Manchester City, winners by the same scoreline at home to Bolton Wanderers, to replace them at the top of the Second Division table.
But Town responded in the perfect fashion to reclaim the leadership, and repair the damage to their goal average, with a 4-0 triumph at Bury.
Johnston, whose side also faced competition from Wolves, Coventry City and Southampton for the two promotion berths, made three changes.
Eire defender Mick Meagan came in for Peter Dinsdale, experienced Kevin McHale for promising youngster Steve Smith and former Leeds frontman Don Weston for Ray Veall.
Experience proved crucial as Town withstood an early Bury storm, grabbed an opening goal through McHale, then fired three goals in four minutes to stun home fans in a 12,783 crowd.
The Shakers could count themselves unlucky not to have netted shortly before the first goal on 33 minutes, with former Barnsley man George Kerr's header hitting the post.
Supporters were still moaning about that miss when Massie seized on a Weston pass, jumped a flying tackle by John Bray and crossed for McHale to hammer the ball past Neil Ramsbottom.
Bury began the second half brightly, but Town, who had Meagan pulling the strings in the middle of the pitch, gradually took control.
A trip on Alan Gilliver in the 53rd minute led to the three-goal blitz.
Jimmy Nicholson lobbed the free-kick in and Gilliver climbed high to head home.
Two minutes later, another set-piece brought goal number three, McHale flighting the ball in, Gilliver nodding it on and Weston applying the finishing touch from close range.
If that left Bury on the ropes, within 60 seconds, they were firmly on the canvas, as another well-constructed attack ended with McHale shooting home from an oblique angle.
Bury refused to throw in the towel, but Town were able to cruise home and send their fans back ascross the Pennines in buoyant mood.
With three games to go, two of them at home, Town, with 50 points, were above Manchester City on goal average, and next came Wolves and Coventry on 48. Southampton were fifth, five points adrift, but with three games in hand.
While Bury were left to lick their wounds, the Lancashire town's top snooker player was celebrating after landing the English amateur title at Huddersfield Town Hall.
John Spencer, who was to become a leading professional, beat Walthamstow's Marcus Owen 11 frames to five, notching an entertaining 101 break in the process.