Hartpury survived a late UWE onslaught to pick up their ninth win in a row and go four points clear at the top of the table.
On a soft pitch, the UWE striker lost his footing early on and Hartpury captain Jay Goddard was able to get back and make a crucial challenge, preventing a certain goal.
Hartpury soon switched on and a quick break from the right saw Dan Olde cut inside and his left footed shot drifted wide of the goal. The wingers were giving the full-backs a torrid time and, together with the overlapping full-backs, it seemed Athletic’s best source of attack was the flanks.
The pressure was building and the breakthrough came when Ryan Nicholls won possession in the midfield and sent the ball out to the right flank. Isy Nzelo created an overlap, which gave space for Olde to drive inside and unleash a left foot shot that squirmed under the keeper.
Gaz Woodman came close to increasing the deficit from distance after lovely intricate play in the midfield with George Bull. When the pair combined again through the middle, a deft chip from Bull released Woodman to race through on goal and, with his pace no match for the centre half, Woodman cleverly finished with the outside of his boot.
Athletic had a dangerous attack down the right with Nzelo and Olde combining well but as the speculative cross was cleared away, UWE countered with a break down the left hand side and their striker finished cleverly to cut the gap to 2-1 at half-time.
Hartpury Athletic made a cracking start to the second half as the tireless Nicholls released Alex Allman down the flank. He crossed in for Woodman, whose header flashed just wide.
Woodman’s pace again proved to be a problem for the UWE centre half, who tugged him back and earned Athletic a free-kick on the edge of the box. Bull stepped up and curled a wonderful free-kick into the far corner with half an hour to play.
With nothing to lose, UWE changed to three at the back and pushed men forward. A fantastic through ball sent their striker clean through and he doubled both his personal tally and UWE’s.
Although UWE sensed a share of the spoils, Athletic’s defence held up. Mason Gwyther was brought on in the midfield and it was his fantastic diagonal pass that found fellow substitute Connor McCarron on the left flank. McCarron found Woodman, who crossed back post for Olde and he was unlucky not to score with his volley.
Athletic spent the final 10 minutes camped in their own half and had to survive a late scare when a UWE penalty appeal was turned down with the ball seeming to strike a flailing arm in the box.
Having seen out this cagey affair, Athletic clinched their third league win of the season to stay at the league summit.
Hartpury: Wright; Nzelo, Gill, Goddard (capt), Worthington; Allman, Nicholls, Walker, Bull (MOTM), Olde; Woodman. Subs: McCarron, Gwyther, Francuz, Piazza, Dixon, Smith.