A superb penalty save from Billy Turley helped bring Oxford United victory over their nearest Conference challengers Dagenham in an action-packed FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie at the Victoria Road Sports Ground on Saturday.

Turley, who had been nursing a slight hamstring strain, cut an imposing figure when Glen Southam stepped up to take the spot-kick 12 minutes from time after Barry Quinn was somewhat harshly adjudged to have handled Craig Mackail-Smith's left-wing cross.

It was the opportunity the Daggers needed to level and probably earn a replay, and possibly to go on and give the U's a very torrid last ten minutes in their first appearance in the competition's qualifying rounds for more than 40 yards.

But United's keeper guessed right, dived to his left and made a brilliant save, and then had the agility that hours on the training ground with goalkeeping coach Alan Hodgkinson had prepared him for by getting up quickly to block a follow-up effort from Cliff Akurang.

United had one more scare a few moments later when Scott Griffiths' angled drive struck the bar, but they thoroughly deserved their win - a second successive victory at the home of their main Conference title rivals, which will inevitably cast seeds of doubts into the Dagenham players that they can finish above Oxford in the league.

This fiercely competitive and entertaining cup-tie, played in a good atmosphere with around 1,200 U's fans packing one end and a significant section of the main stand, was in fact a game of three penalties - two given and one not.

United felt they should have had one in the 25th minute when Carl Pettefer went down following a defender's challenge after he took the ball past Daggers' keeper Tony Roberts.

The linesman put his flag across his chest to signal a penalty, but Cambridge referee Gary Lewis ignored him and booked Pettefer for diving!

There was no doubt in Mr Lewis's mind, though, when Duffy was manhandled by home skipper Anwar Uddin as the pair went for a left-wing corner by Andy Burgess nine minutes into the second half.

Duffy picked himself up and, showing great confidence, maintained his 100 per cent record from 12 yards with an expertly-taken spot-kick low into the bottom right corner.

Oxford's team was not as expected because Chris Willmott returned to be with his pregnant wife.

So Matt Day slotted in at centre back, and Jim Smith resisted the temptation to give Yemi Odubade a start after his recent run of goals by sticking with Steve Basham alongside Duffy.

Day produced an important block in the seventh minute when Paul Benson tried a volley on the turn after the ball skimmed off Phil Gilchrist's head.

Dagenham's all-action style meant United were given very little time to settle and in Mackail-Smith on the left flank, they had a very dangerous customer.

It was from Mackail-Smith's first-time cross in the 12th minute, that the Daggers went close, Sam Saunders coming in at the far post and seeing his header deflect off Rufus Brevett for a corner.

Good combination play between Pettefer and Eddie Anaclet led to two corners in quick succession for the visitors.

And the second, taken by Burgess, brought a superb header from Duffy who forced Roberts into a decent parried save.

Burgess produced a skilful cameo to beat three players on the left wing.

Yet when he delivered a cross to match it as well, Duffy couldn't get any power on his header.

The contest swung from one end to the other and the Daggers had half-chances simply from getting the ball into the box with great regularity.

Turley was kept busy, often having to come smartly off his line as the home side almost got in between him and the U's defence.

Turley spread himself to save well from Dave Rainford, and moments later, only quick reactions from Quinn, whipping the ball off the feet of Mackail-Smith after he had dribbled into the area, got Oxford out of danger again.

Basham worked incredibly hard, and some of his control and lay-offs were of the highest quality.

Yet he was cursing his lack of pace as he had two opportunities to get beyond Dagenham's defence from great passes from midfield.

First he tried to cut the ball back to Chris Hargreaves, only for Daggers defenders to clean up comfortably, and when the former Preston striker then tried an audacious angled shot from 45 yards, it flew well over.

Two minutes before half-time, Basham did pull the ball back well for Eddie Anaclet, but Anaclet was reluctant to shoot, even from 12 yards out, and squared it to Duffy, whose curling right-footer was blocked.

When Oxford were awarded their penalty, it was the second disappointing moment for guilty man Uddin in the space of a few minutes.

Moments earlier at the other end, he powered in a header from Sam Saunders' free-kick that Turley did well to save with his ankles.

Dagenham put Oxford under pressure, but the U's defence was superb, Gilchrist and Quinn heading everything away to safety, and Brevett and Day getting really stuck in.

Anaclet was playing so far advanced he was often around the edge of Dagenham's penalty area, adding good support to many of their attacks.

Duffy had a good opportunity to get a second goal near the end, dribbling beyond Roberts, but was crowded out and after two more passes the ball ended up near the corner flag!

But that reluctance to pull the trigger - for the second time in the match - was just about the only criticism one could level about United.

There were a great many excellent individual performances.

And when they came off at the final whistle, most of them first going up to give Turley a hug for his heroics, there were some memorable scenes of unity between players and their jubilant supporters.