PETER CLARKE crashed home a sizzling late winner to keep Town in League I’s automatic promotion zone.
Three minutes of stoppage time had just been signalled when the skipper, having headed on a Gary Roberts corner, made sure with a forceful shot after Brentford scrambled Danny Cadamarteri’s effort off the line.
It was a dramatic end to a tight game as Lee Clark’s side stayed above Peterborough, who won at Sheffield Wednesday, with a fourth win in five games.
Town, now unbeaten in 16 league matches, made one change to the side which started Saturday’s 1-0 win at Bristol Rovers.
Roberts, who missed the West Country clash through illness, returned at the expense of Cadamarteri, who was on the bench alongside Danny Ward, freshly signed on loan from Bolton, and left-back Gary Naysmith, fit again after a calf injury.
Brentford, aiming to build on their 1-0 capital derby win at Charlton, were without 11-goal striker Charlie MacDonald because of damaged ankle ligaments.
Town, with Scott Arfield switching from the left midfield role he took at Bristol to the right to accommodate Roberts, created the first chance of the game in the third minute.
Left-back Stephen Jordan picked out Jordan Rhodes with a deep cross, but the striker’s header was comfortably held by Richard Lee.
The home keeper had more trouble dealing with ex-Brentford loan man Rhodes’ next effort in the seventh minute.
Latching onto Arfield’s pass, he spun away from marker Leon Legge and lofted in a shot from just inside the area which had Lee stretching to tip the ball away for a corner.
Brentford’s first real attack came in the 14th minute, when Lewis Grabban teed up Gary Alexander, whose angled low shot was firm, but wide.
Millwall loanee Grabban then cut in from the left touchline and shot narrowly wide of the near post before his low drive from a more central position was safely collected by Alex Smithies.
A raised foot by Adam Reed on Joey Gudjonsson gave Town a useful free-kick opportunity in the 23rd minute, but Kevin Kilbane’s 25-yard effort failed to beat the wall, and as Brentford counter-attacked, Smithies did well to hold Nathan Byrne’s deflected long ranger.
Reed had Brentford’s best chance yet in the 28th minute, receiving Craig Woodman’s pass on the edge of the area and turning to bend in a shot which was only just off target.
Town, for whom Jack Hunt was impressing at right-back, forced successive corners in the 35th minute, but while the lively Roberts swung his deliveries in with menace, Brentford’s defence held firm.
Town tweaked their formation towards the end of the first half, with Arfield going central and Benik Afobe dropping back to a right midfield berth, but despite some fluent passing phases, were unable to make any real inroads.
The home side, meanwhile, won a dangerous-looking free-kick when Jamie McCombe was ruled to have pulled back Grabban in the 42nd minute, but the striker’s shot from Woodman’s low ball in went harmlessly wide.
Town were playing towards their own fans after the break and the 633 in a 4,402 crowd got a close-up look at new boy Ward as he came on for Rhodes at the start of the second half, taking up a position on the left, with Roberts switching to the right and Afobe going central.
And when the Arsenal loan man won a free-kick 20 yards out in the 56th minute, Roberts went agonisingly close with a low drive which flew just wide.
There was another change in the 59th minute, when Naysmith replaced Jordan, before Brentford’s Toumani Diagouraga blazed a volley over and Gudjonsson put an audacious overhead kick wide for Town, who now had Roberts back on the left and Ward on the opposite flank.
Town made their final change in the 73rd minute, with Danny Cadamarteri going on for Afobe.
Brentford had also made changes, and Smithies did well to deny one of their substitutes, debutant Leicester loan striker Jeffrey Schlupp, from close range in the 81st minute.
But it was Town who were to make the breakthrough, which Clarke’s strike making the journey to the capital well worthwhile.