Lee Steele proved a thorn in Oxford United's side once again by giving the Blue Square Premier strugglers a shock win at the Kassam Stadium.

To make Oxford's day worse, they had centre half Luke Foster sent off for two yellow cards by ridiculously over-fussy referee Adam Watts.

Booked in the first half, Foster was then penalised again for another foul on Jamie Mullan on 58 minutes, and the ref brought out the red.

The result ended United's three-game winning run, and the three points could prove a lifeline to Northwich's hopes of avoiding the drop.

Former U's striker Steele, who struck the goal which sent Oxford out of the Football League in 2006, grabbed the winner with a typical poacher's goal in the tenth minute when keeper Billy Turley saw the ball squirm out of his grasp eight yards out of his goal after Mullan had caused problems following a neat one-two.

It was just the confidence booster that Northwich needed. They came into the game on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run in the league but had lost on their previous two visits to Oxford.

Playing against a strong wind in the first half, the home side went close before Steele's opener when Phil Trainer charged down a clearance and Matt Green took the ball on 15 yards before hitting a low shot narrowly wide of goalkeeper Ben Connett's right post.

Trainer began the game well, producing a sharp turn and useful cross from the left, but Eddie Anaclet couldn't get on the end of it.

Centre half Luke Foster, who had twice flicked the ball on well at free-kicks, then went close with a scissors kick, which just cleared the bar, after Green headed a corner back from the far post.

Vics' Matty Crowell was yellow-carded for a clattering challenge on Trainer, who seemed to be involved in everything. The U's midfielder sliced a shot wide, then let himself down with a poor first touch from Adam Murray's pass, enabling Connett to save bravely at his feet.

Connett needed treatment for getting a boot in the chest, though Trainer had every right to go for the ball.

Northwich didn't have many opportunities going forward, although Darryn Stamp brought a simple save from Turley with a glancing header.

United made a double substitution at half-time to try to get back into the match, replacing the disappointing Jamie Hand with Michael Blackwood, and Justin Richards with Craig McAllister.

And McAllister felt he should have had a penalty when Cortez Belle appeared to be holding him down as he tried to go for a header in the box.

By then, Vics almost had a second goal, Turley this time reacting well to save low to his right from Matty Crowell's 20-yard snap-shot.

Northwich continued to look dangerous going forward and defender Michael Welch fired in a speculative long-range effort.

After Foster's dismissal, Oxford brought on Yemi Odubade for Green and played three at the back, but they were always up against it with ten men.

Odubade had a shot blocked by a defender after some good midfield prompting by Adam Murray.

The referee infuriated home supporters with some of his decisions, and the way he felt the need to keep brandishing cards, seven in total.

With four minutes of stoppage time played in the first half, and five minutes at the end of the second half, the match didn't finish until after 5pm.

But United just couldn't find a way through.

Oxford Utd: Turley, Day, Quinn, Foster, Howard, Anaclet, Hand (Blackwood h-t), Murray, Trainer, Richards (McAllister h-t), Green (Odubade 62). Subs not used: Clarke, Hutchinson.

Booked: Foster, Anaclet, Day.

Sent-off: Foster (2nd yellow card, 58 mins.

Att: 4,673 (116 from Northwich).