City 1 Oxford 0

I DON'T know what Stuart McCall puts in the half-time tea but it continues to work a treat for City.

For the fifth win running, the breakthrough came after the break, with Nicky Law's close-range nudge after an hour keeping the remarkable sequence of second-half scoring going.

More importantly, it maintained the six-point cushion within the play-off places on a day when everyone from third to seventh won. Over to you, Bolton.

It was a particularly sweet moment for Law on his first start since February 28. How City will need him back to his effervescent best for the mighty challenges to come.

Oxford chairman Darryl Eales had treated away fans to their pre-match pints in the Bradford Arms.

But the visitors had not turned up in party mode simply to tick off another day of their season. Boss Michael Appleton had demanded four wins to keep alive their very faint play-off ambitions – they did not go down without a fight.

Again it was not City at their fluent best but the result, as we say every week, is everything.

It also felt good to finally get one over the team from the university city, who had seemed to have the Bantams' number after inflicting the first league defeat of the season and also dumping them out of the last eight of the Checkatrade Trophy.

McCall made the two expected changes from the team that won at Bury, where Law and Jordy Hiwula had both pushed their claims with decent cameos off the bench.

Law, with that niggling right-knee injury behind him, lined up on the left of the midfield three but was soon buzzing about like he had never been away.

Oxford had ended City's two-month unbeaten start with a free-kick in injury time from Chris Maguire – and the Scottish international had an early chance to test Colin Doyle again but this time the big Irishman plucked it out of the air.

At the other end, Simon Eastwood was making his first appearance at Valley Parade since a difficult half-season loan spell under McCall in 2009. But the Oxford keeper had a jittery start when he missed Tony McMahon's opening corner and was thankful Rory McArdle was unable to apply the touch.

Another City corner produced their first genuine chance as McMahon's deep kick was met by McArdle with a meaty header. This time Eastwood was equal to it to tip behind.

Oxford were looking to press City and stop them from playing out from the back but neither side were able to find time on the ball in a featureless opening quarter. With both playing 4-3-3, it was a case of cancelling each other out.

There was a sniff of a chance for the Bantams on the half-hour mark after Charlie Wyke cleverly spun off marker Charlie Raglan. He laid off the loose ball invitingly into the path of Hiwula but his attempt to place the shot cannoned off the covering Curtis Nelson.

Corners appeared the most likely route to break the stalemate and Raglan briefly left his duties of shadowing Wyke to glance a header wide from Oxford's first ten minutes before the break.

The visitors were growing in ambition and Conor McAleny fired wide with a first-time strike after Joe Skarz powered forward from left back.

City's passing was ragged, although Hiwula nearly wriggled his way through until Raglan intervened with a timely tackle.

It had not been the first time that City had looked to use Hiwula's pace to get in behind the Oxford ranks – but they had found no way through and once again the Bantams had drawn a blank at the break.

The crowd sensed the hosts needed lifting and the early stages of the second half were played out to a constant backbeat of "Stuart McCall's Bradford army".

Mark Marshall, quiet up to that point, made a couple of skirmishes and was dumped on the touchline by Skarz for the game's first booking. Romain Vincelot met the free-kick with a looping header over the bar.

As the noise continued, McMahon conducted the Kop chorus before taking one corner. Wyke's stooping header threatened to sneak in at the near post but Eastwood smuggled it clear.

It was much better from the Bantams – and brought the long-awaited goal on the hour.

Hiwula found a pocket of space midway inside Oxford territory and worked the ball wide to Marshall. His cross was on the money for Wyke and the downward header was swept home at the foot of the post by Law.

He had just been moved into a 'number ten' role by McCall – a "managerial masterstroke", as the City boss joked afterwards.

Cue as much relief as celebration around Valley Parade but the cheers were nearly cut short as Marvin Johnson flicked the ball into Joe Rothwell's path. The Oxford midfielder looked to be a yard clear of McMahon but the right back recovered superbly to nick the ball behind.

Even then, the danger had not passed as City failed to deal with the corner and Nelson lashed wildly wide from a decent position.

Wyke almost doubled the lead with an outrageous volley from 25 yards that Eastwood pushed over the bar at full stretch.

"We're on our way," crowed the crowd as Law left the action to a standing ovation after a convincing return to arms.

Marshall's cross-shot brushed the far post but Oxford's nagging attacking threat was still apparent as McAleny's low drive needed a strong block from Doyle.

The Everton loanee then tested the keeper again with a curling effort from 20 yards as he continued to wage a one-man war on the City goal.

Josh Cullen had the chance to soothe home nerves when Marshall's cross dropped to him by the penalty spot but he scooped over. That wait for his first goal since August goes on.

Stephen Darby and Billy Clarke were brought on to close out the game and City negotiated five added minutes without alarm to register a fourth successive home win. Roll on Bramall Lane on Monday.

Attendance: 19,346