Mullins the match-winner as Luton battle past Morecambe
League Two: Luton Town 1 Morecambe 0
It wasn't pretty, it certainly wasn't vintage, but if Luton are promoted this season and lifting silverware in May, then few will remember this performance against Morecambe on a dank and grey day at Kenilworth Road.
Although Hatters have hit seven on two occasions at Kenilworth Road, eight once as well, the end result is the same, three points, which Luton ensured, just about, stayed in Bedfordshire once more.
A flat first half, which saw top scorer Danny Hylton limp off after eight minutes, carried on into the second period, with the visitors looking the better side right up until centre half Johnny Mullins popped up with the winner on 64 minutes.
The hosts then had to cling on in the latter stages, Marek Stech making some fine stops to pick up a first clean sheet in the league since Boxing Day, as Luton extended their advantage over second-placed Notts County to six points, the Magpies losing 2-1 at home to Exeter.
Boss Nathan Jones made three changes, opting to bring back Hylton, while Lawson D'Ath was given his first home league start, as the Luton chief altered his defence from the 2-0 defeat at Chesterfield, Glen Rea moving to centre half, Akin Famewo dropping to the bench, where he was joined by James Justin, Jack Stacey earning a recall.
However, Hylton, who missed the reverse at the Proact Stadium with a tight hamstring, lasted less than 10 minutes this time.
Dummying his man for the second time in quick succession, he pulled up in clear pain holding his other leg, the gasp of disappointment audible from home supporters, as he couldn't continue, Elliot Lee coming on.
After a quiet opening, Andrew Shinnie did well to win possession and let fly from 25 yards, Barry Roche unconvincingly parrying away, with Elliot Lee's goalbound close range blast blocked by Steven Old.
Shinnie looked Town's most creative outlet, spinning his man and driving forward, only to shoot well wide, when a ball to the unmarked Stacey was the better option.
Luke Berry slammed over the top, but the half hour lacked any real spark from either side, Glen Rea swivelling to shoot off target as well.
The action didn't improve much in the closing stages, Aaron McGowan's snapshot forcing Stech into a diving stop moments before the interval.
There was very little suggest the second 45 was going to be much better, D'Ath breaking with purpose to find Olly Lee up in support, who at full tilt blazed over.
Town were then indebted to Stech for keeping it goalless, with Adam McGurk's effort taking a wicked deflection off Mullins, the stopper hastily changing direction to palm behind.
The Czech custodian needed to be alert once more as Luke Conlan's cross flicked into the path of McGurk, his nick requiring another sprawling stop.
It was all Shrimps now, Stech beating away Michael Rose's fierce drive, the loose ball dinked over for Aaron Wildig to head inches wide.
With Town's supporters becoming increasingly nervy seeing their side under mounting pressure, it was all to change as Town broke the deadlock in timely fashion on 64 minutes.
A brilliant free kick was swung in from the right by Olly Lee, and whereas in the first half, no-one had gambled on a similarly delivered set-piece, this time Mullins judged his run to perfection, burying a downward header.
Before play could restart, Harry Cornick came on for D'Ath and made his customary difference, posing all sorts of problems that the visiting defence hadn't had to deal with.
One direct, pacy burst led to Roche beating the ball away, with Mullins almost grabbing a double, his header flicking agonisingly wide.
Although Luton apperaed to finally be taking a stranglehold on the game, with Kevin Ellison on for the final 20 minutes, play swung from end to end.
The veteran almost took advantage of two errors from Rea, who redeemed himself with a wonderful sliding challenge and then fired wide when Mullins' clearance lacked distance.
Still Cornick pressed though, Roche's fingertips preventing a pressure relieving second, and the Shrimps almost made Town pay for not taking their chance, Old nodding wide.
Late on, James Collins sliced over but when Rose put his free kick into the stands, Hatters could take a collective sigh of relief to chalk up yet another win on home soil towards their target of automatic promotion.
Hatters: Marek Stech, Jack Stacey, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins (C), Glen Rea, Olly Lee, Luke Berry, Lawson D'Ath (Harry Cornick 65), Andrew Shinnie, Danny Hylton (Elliot Lee 8), James Collins.
Subs not used: James Shea, James Justin, Jordan Cook, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Akin Famewo.
Shrimps: Barry Roche, Aaron McGowan (Mitchell Lund 84), Steven Old, Garry Thompson, Andrew Fleming, Luke Conlan, Aaron Wildig (Adam Campbell 69), Sam Lavelle, Max Muller, Michael Rose (C), Adam McGurk (Kevin Ellison 70).
Subs not used: Patrick Brough, Alex Kenyon, Dean Winnard, Danijel Nizic.
Booked: Conlan 45, Fleming 63.
Referee: Trevor Kettle.
Attendance: 8,476 (Morecambe 61).
Hatters MOM: Marek Stech. Key saves after the break ensured Town weren't breached.