Michael Appleton hailed one of Lincoln’s “best results of the season” after they edged out relegation-threatened Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium.
The Imps took the lead through Anthony Scully’s pinpoint finish on 16 minutes before the Gas had Ed Upson sent off after a fracas involving Lincoln’s Brennan Johnson and Tayo Edun as the game approached half-time.
Rovers battled hard to salvage a result, but the Imps kept them at arm’s length to earn a vital win in pursuit of a Sky Bet League One play-off berth.
The Gas, however, plunged deeper into the mire and are in need of a miracle to avoid relegation to League Two with four games to play.
“It was a great game to win, but it definitely wasn’t a great game to watch,” Appleton said.
“That’s what you need to do if you’re going to have success, you’re going to have to win certain games.
“It’s definitely one of the best results of the season, but in terms of performances it was arguably one of our worst. We had to be resolute and I thought we were resolute as a group today.
“We came through a stern test and passed with flying colours.”
Rovers boss Joey Barton thought his side were unfortunate to be on the wrong side of referee Will Finnie’s decision to dismiss Upson in the 36th minute.
“I didn’t expect a red card,” Barton said. “I thought it was handbags and if there was going to be a red card then I expected it to be their number seven (Edun), who threw two punches.
“The linesman on my side is telling the referee that it’s only a yellow card, but the referee says that Ed’s is a red card and I can’t see it.
“I spoke to Ed and he’s not that type of boy. I didn’t see enough to give a red card, but we’ve come out the bad side of a decision again.
“It’s frustrating, it really, really is, but also we’ve got to take decisions out of the referee’s hands and be better than that and more clinical than that.
“At the point the red card was shown we were already 1-0 down so it obviously gave us a mountain to climb, but we’ve got to be more effective.”
Appleton, however, believes the referee got the Upson red card right.
“He’s got his hand around our player’s neck,” he said. “He’s got a lot of scratches around his face and neck as a result and it was the right decision.
“Upson almost gave the referee no choice. If anything, them going down to 10 men worked against us a little bit because we probably thought the job was done at that stage. We sat back a little bit after that.”