OXFORD United fought their way to a hard-earned victory after playing with ten men for the final 35 minutes against Newport County.

Tyrone Barnett was dismissed for two bookable offences early in the second half, transforming what had looked a relatively comfortable game into a nail-biting contest.

Fortunately, United already had a lead after dominating the first half.

After several presentable chances came and went, the breakthrough came via an unorthodox route, when Michael Collins's free-kick, which was meant as a cross, missed everyone and found the net.

Having shown their talents on the ball, United had to dig deep out of possession after Barnett was sent off, but they produced an excellent rearguard action to claim only their second win of the league season.

As expected, Ryan Clarke made his first appearance of the season, taking over from George Long in goal after recovering from foot surgery.

There were two other changes, with Michael Raynes replacing injured skipper Jake Wright, while Danny Rose faced his former club after being preferred to Josh Ruffels in midfield.

The game was open almost from the first minute and it did not take much longer for the first chance, headed wide by Barnett.

Raynes also nodded just off target from a Brian Howard free-kick, but the first clear chance came at the other end in the eighth minute.

Former United midfielder Adam Chapman got the better of Raynes out wide, giving Newport a two-on-one in the area.

The ball was squared to Aaron O'Connor, who should have scored but delayed long enough for Rose to track back and prod the ball wide.

Another warning came shortly afterwards, when Clarke had to scurry to his right and turn a shot from Mark Byrne round the post.

From the corner United broke quickly and after Callum O'Dowda was halted the ball fell to Howard, who played Barnett in to shoot wide from 15 yards.

It was a bad miss from the striker, who should have at least made goalkeeper Joe Day work.

Clarke had to save from Yan Klukowski, but as the half wore on United's grip on the game tightened.

Danny Hylton blasted a shot just wide from range, while Howard had a free-kick saved.

But United's best outlet again came on the left through O'Dowda.

The winger looked to commit players every time he got the ball and just before the half hour mark one run saw the ball go loose to Howard.

His shot was touched wide by Day and from the resulting corner Barnett powered a header over the crossbar.

The striker turned provided for the clearest chance of the half, on 33 minutes.

He conjured a superb cross for Hylton, who somehow shot over from six yards.

It was beginning to look a familiar tale of United dominating a game without reward, but four minutes before the break they opened the scoring.

Chapman fouled O'Dowda 40 yards out and from the free-kick Collins whipped the ball into the area.

He was undoubtedly looking for a teammate, but it missed everyone and beat a flat-footed Day, nestling in the far corner of the net.

It all looked to be going United's way as they headed into the break on top, but their hopes were dented ten minutes after the restart.

Barnett was booked within seconds of the half starting for a late tackle on Ismail Yakubu.

There was no complaint for that tackle, but the United bench were incensed when he picked up a second yellow card for a challenge on Darren Jones.

The game threatened to boil over as a flurry of bookings were dished out by referee Darren Sheldrake to both sides.

One was for Carlton Morris within seconds of coming on for Brian Howard, as United reshuffled their line-up.

Newport, boosted by the numerical advantage, came close to an equaliser midway through the half.

A through ball enticed Clarke out of goal, but Joe Pigott got there first, only to shoot off target after his touch took him wide.

United retained an attacking threat for a while, but increasingly their efforts became devoted to preserving the lead.

Newport forced a host of corners, with Clarke having to make a series of punches from under his crossbar to clear the danger.

The pressure continued to build, though, with Byrne firing a whisker over from long range as the game crept into the final ten minutes.

Ex-United forward Chris Zebroski had a good sight of goal after coming off the bench, but he shot off target when the ball fell kindly to him in the box.

There was a groan from the home fans when six minutes of stoppage time were shown by the fourth official and they endured a tense moment when Zebroski tumbled in the area under Tom Newey's challenge.

To the hosts' relief, the referee waved away Newport's protests and United held on for victory.

Oxford Utd: Clarke, Riley, Raynes, Mullins, Newey, Collins, Rose (Ruffels 73), Hylton, Howard (Morris 58), O'Dowda (Brown 86), Barnett.

Unused subs: G Long, Whing, S Long, Jakubiak.

Newport: Day, Tancock, Jones, Yakubu, Willmott, Byrne, Chapman (Loveridge 58), Klukowski (Crow 86), Sandell, Pigott, O'Connor (Zebroski 70).

Unused subs: Pidgeley, Feely, Poole, Owen-Evans.

Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey).

Attendance: 5,072 (643 visitors).