BARRY Town United went top of the Third Division of the Welsh Soccer League with a 2-0 midweek win over Llantwit Major, but were soon back in second after a weekend slip up at Risca United.
Llantwit made the short trip to Barry hoping to avenge their 4-1 defeat from earlier in the season and the villagers did well to frustrate Gavin Chesterfield's side for long periods under the Jenner Park floodlights.
Nevertheless, the Town orchestrated a breakthrough after 32 minutes, with Nickie Jones forcing home the opener to settle any derby day nerves for the boys in yellow and blue.
The game's main talking point arrived almost immediately from the restart when a horror tackle ended Barry skipper James Saddler's evening. Saddler, a starter for 65 consecutive league and cup games, was immediately substituted, and the team missed his influence.
The visitors' best chance of the first half came from a corner, with a Llantwit attacker narrowly getting ahead of Town defender Ryan Evans, only for Barry goalkeeper Dan Bradley to make the save.
Man of the match Evans recovered, though, after the break, clearing the ball off the goal line after Bradley had been rounded from a one-on-one scenario.
Despite these scares, Barry maintained their sixth clean sheet of the calendar year, with striker Jordan Cotterill capping the win with a goal at the other end - his fifth in six outings.
The win carried the Town to the summit of the table, with 59 points from 22 games, and a game in hand to boot.
However, their fine run of form hit a speed bump on Saturday in the form of third-placed Risca.
With a sore Evans joining a crutches-bound Saddler on the sidelines, Barry (in traditional green) fielded a depleted squad at Ty-Isaf Park, with the influential Ryan Jenkins and Lee Jarman adding to the list of players ruled out.
There could, though, be few complaints on the day as the invigorated Cuckoos soared to a victory on home turf to keep their own promotion aspirations very much alive.
The hosts, who had led December's reverse fixture at Jenner Park until a spirited Barry fightback, showed hunger and strength across the field, and took the initiative to force a 20th minute lead.
James Parry, who caused a number of problems for Town full-back Paul Morgan, outfoxed Barry winger Michael Hartley on the left and crossed for team-mate Paul Michael to convert at the back post.
With the pitch deteriorating, Barry's passing game was largely restricted, and the home side worked hard to break up any attacks in a dogged defence of their lead.
Unfortunately for Barry, the Cuckoos were equally potent in attack as demonstrated before half-time when Parry whipped the ball in from a free-kick, and Josh Collier rose high to head beyond goalkeeper Bradley, gifting the Gwent side a crucial two-goal cushion.
Barry threatened more consistently and effectively after the break, with Cotterill springing into life to go close, and midfielder Troy Greening denied twice, including one effort cleared from the goal line.
However, time was against the resurgent Town and the wheels of their comeback wagon fell off completely in the 75th minute, with Payne tapping in to seal Barry's misery with a killer third.
To their credit, Barry fired back almost instantly; unflagging winger Dale Howarth reducing the deficit with a low drive past goalkeeper Jonathan Chorley, after Cotterill had broken through the resolute Risca defence.
It was, though, too little too late for Chesterfield's men, who were ultimately second best against a fired-up home side and found themselves second in the table as a result, with Llanwern beating Tredegar Town 7-0 to reclaim top spot.
This weekend, the Town will attempt to bounce back with a trip to relegation-battling Newport Civil Service (2.30pm) before making the long journey to Newcastle Emlyn the following Saturday afternoon.
The club is running a return coach to this match, with any remaining supporters hoping to travel encouraged to contact vice secretary Paul Cole on 07588 516 377 asap to book their seats.