he Devon derby is always special and Saturday’s serving was no different, although the significance of the result largely outweighed the quality of the entertainment.  

Plymouth Argyle travelled to Exeter City for a lunchtime kick-off in desperate need of three points to maintain their dreams of automatic promotion, which had stalled with an Easter Monday loss at home to Lincoln City. 

While Exeter are set for a satisfactory mid-table finish, nothing would please the Grecians more than a win over the Greens. 

The stage was set and the actors played with relentless endeavour, but the script turned out to be a fairly turgid midfield battle. City forced a couple of decent saves from Argyle custodian Callum Burton in an otherwise quiet first period. 

Argyle’s rise this year has seen them score some fabulous goals but this massive win was actually achieved via a huge deflection on a Matt Butcher strike 20 minutes from time. A 1-0 victory that kept the Pilgrims top of Sky Bet League One.  

Argyle manager Steven Schumacher told BBC Sport: "It felt important because it's a derby game. 

"It felt important because people have said a few things about us over the past few weeks, about not dealing with pressure. 

"We didn't play brilliantly, didn't play great football, but we found a way to win the game and were professional. 

"It says a lot that if we can keep that standard up in the next five games then we've got a chance." 

After a midweek trip to Shrewsbury, the Pilgrims have three home games in a week (Cambridge United, Bristol Rovers, Burton Albion), which will define their promotion ambitions. Argyle end their season with a trip to Port Vale on May 7. 

Exeter have a home game on the final day, against Morecambe, and also play Derby County (H), Sheffield Wednesday (A) and Ipswich Town (A).  

The great irony that awaits the Grecians is that Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich are Argyle’s two main rivals for automatic promotion, so City will have a big say on the destiny of their biggest rivals.