St Albans City came through their first serious test in National League South this season with flying colours on Tuesday when a spectacular 89th-minute strike from 35 yards by leading goalscorer Shaun Jeffers sent table-topping Dartford spinning to their second defeat on home soil as the visitors triumph 1-0.

There appeared to be little danger to the home goal when a long free-kick by goalkeeper Michael Johnson went out towards the City left midway inside the Darts half at Princes Park. What followed was pure genius.

Jeffers had to battle to win possession and then came inside onto his right foot before unleashing a glorious strike that flew above the head of home goalkeeper Craig King and struck the underside crossbar and bounced up to hit it again before crossing the goalline.

Jeffers, along with Zane Banton, had been a pain to Steve King’s side all night but top billing must be shared with Johnson who set up the victory with a stunning save to his right to keep out a Charlie Sheringham penalty on 63 minutes.

The game off to a lively start with both sides getting forward and the Darts caused some consternation when a clearance by Mitchell Weiss thudded into the outstretched leg of Darts skipper Tom Bonner and flew across the goal and wide.

City replied with a Jeffers free-kick that King caught to his left. Johnson was first called into action on 16 minutes when diving to his left to palm away a well-placed angled half-volley by Sheringham.

One of the features of the game was the frequency with which Gavin McCallum got forward down the Darts left to send over a series of searching cross that City did well to deal with.

From one such cross on 19 minutes the free Elliott Romain sent in a header from six yards that clipped the top of the crossbar.

Again, City responded well with a good move down the left that saw Jeffers cut the ball into the path of Banton who nipped into the penalty area and had a left-footed effort blocked by King.

St Albans produced two moves of sheer class during the opening half that were only denied a goal by desperate last-ditch defending in the home ranks.

City survived a double let-off just before the interval when Joy Mukena escaped without a booking after committing a pointless handball wide on the Saints left. From Jack Jebb’s free-kick Dave Diedhiou clearly held Sheringham in the middle of the penalty area and in so doing stopped the experienced striker from getting a clean header on goal.

But it was Dartford who had a narrow escape right on half-time. Another good City move down the right involving Michael Clark and Munashe Sundire ended with the latter’s cross bouncing its way through to Jeffers only for his point-blank shot to ricochet wide off King.

Dartford had already had one strong penalty appeal turned down soon after the interval when good fortune appeared to smile on them on 62 minutes when Noor Husin seemed to go down somewhat easily as he and Clark went for the ball.

Fortunately, it mattered not a jot as Johnson, after jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof while Sheringham had a delayed wait to take the spot kick, superbly kept his clean sheet intact.

King gambled midway through the half when withdrawing his attacking paring of Romain and Sheringham with Jack Barham and Alfie Pavey being thrown into the fray.

The game seemed likely to end goalless when a couple of enterprising City moves failed to produce the breakthrough they deserved.

From the first, Banton did well to win the ball and fed Bender whose low cross was collected by Jeffers with the striker’s snap-shop thumping into the face of the crossbar.

Mukena set the next move in motion and Bender surged down the left before twice exchanging passes with Jeffers before the latter sent a fine angled and dipping drive across King and narrowly wide of the back post.

Dartford’s last chance of collecting all three points vanished when, from another McCallum cross, Barham sent a close-range header just wide of the target.

Shortly after that Jeffers struck for the sixth time this season to preserve the only unbeaten record remaining in National League South and edge City to within three points of Dartford with three games in hand.

Dartford: C.King, J.Barnum-Bobb, G.McCallum, J.Wynter, C.Essam, T.Bonner, N.Husin (L.Allen 78), J.Berkeley-Agyepong, E.Romain (J.Barham 68), C.Sheringham (A.Pavey 68), J.Jebb. Subs not used: J.Hill, K.Marsh-Brown.

St Albans City: M.Johnson, T.Bender, K.Wiltshire, J.Kaloczi, M.Clark, S.Jeffers (J.Chidyausiku 90+4), Z.Banton, D.Diedhiou, M.Weiss (D.Noble 78), M.Sundire (D.Stanley 90+5), J.Mukena. Subs not used: R.Akinola, C.Onokwai.