JOSH Ruffels struck a late winner from long-range to give Oxford United their first home win for two months.

The game had been heading for a goalless stalemate after United’s best chance to break the deadlock appeared to disappear when Jack Payne had a penalty saved by Ian Lawlor 11 minutes from time.

But Ruffels popped up 30 yards out with virtually the last kick of the game to bag a precious three points for Pep Clotet’s side.

The visitors had chances themselves, most notably when Tommy Rowe’s effort early in the second half hit the inside of the post and rolled along the line.

But United nicked a close game, something they have not done enough this season, to climb up to eighth in Sky Bet League One.

Oxford Mail:

  • Jack Payne cannot believe it after seeing his penalty saved

Clotet largely reversed his midweek changes in the Checkatrade Trophy to field the side who began their previous league game.

The only alteration from the 1-1 draw at Southend United was Alex Mowatt, the midweek match-winner, in for Joe Rothwell, who did at least make the substitutes’ bench after recovering from injury.

United had developed an alarming habit of conceding early goals in the last few weeks, but they were on the front foot early on.

Their one clear chance of the bright opening spell came on 16 minutes.

Mowatt, facing his hometown club, broke forward and showed great vision to square for James Henry, whose first-time effort from 20 yards was superbly turned round the post by Rovers goalkeeper Lawlor.

The resulting corner was cleared, but midway through the half another set piece fell for Ruffels, who lashed wildly over the crossbar.

When Rovers came into the game, most of the incidents revolved around John Marquis.

With pantomime season about to start, the striker gave a convincing audition for the villain.

After shoving John Mousinho over after the ball ran out of play, minutes later he kicked out at Ricardinho but to United’s astonishment the officials did not appear to have seen it.

It ensured Marquis was booed by the home fans, but the interruptions had helped to disrupt United’s rhythm.

The visitors went on to have a good spell and Simon Eastwood saved headers in quick succession from Rowe and Marquis, the latter a tricky downward effort which the goalkeeper did well to take cleanly with Alfie Beestin ready to pounce on a mistake.

Referee Sebastian Stockbridge had already irked the hosts by booking Dwight Tiendalli and Mousinho, before he waved away appeals for a penalty on Wes Thomas seven minutes before the break.

United’s No 9 almost bundled them in front early in the second half from Ricardinho’s fierce cross, but Joe Wright did well to smuggle the ball round the near post for a corner.

Oxford Mail:

  • Wes Thomas goes down in the first half but his appeal for a penalty was waved away

Doncaster then went on to have a good spell, with Tommy Rowe pulling the strings.

The experienced midfielder could not have come closer to scoring in the 56th minute, but his shot from 12 yards hit the inside of the post and, with United holding their breath, rolled along the goal-line and away to safety.

Eastwood also tipped over at full stretch to deny Rowe's rising drive from 25 yards with the next attack.

United had plenty of defending to do, partly because they could not make the ball stick when they regained possession.

But with 11 minutes left they were given a golden chance to get in front.

Payne was caught by Andy Butler and the referee pointed to the spot, despite Doncaster protesting the foul had taken place just outside the box.

With regular penalty-taker Ryan Ledson on the bench, Payne assumed the duties and opted for power, but Lawlor was equal to it.

There was still more than 15 minutes remaining, including stoppage-time.

Neither side looked happy to settle for a point, but that looked exactly what they were going to get until the final seconds.

There was still time for one last attack, launched by Rothwell, and when Ruffels was found 30 yards out the midfielder tried his luck with a shot which found the bottom corner.

The Kassam Stadium erupted in delight, as one point turned into three in a flash.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Tiendalli, Williamson, Mousinho, Ricardinho, Xemi, Ruffels, (Rothwell 61), Henry, Payne, Mowatt, Thomas (Obika 81).

Unused subs: Shearer, Martin, Carroll, Ledson, Napa.

Booked: Tiendalli, Mousinho, Ricardinho.

Doncaster Rov (4-4-2): Lawlor, Mason, Wright, Butler, Toffolo, Whiteman, Houghton, Coppinger, Rowe, Marquis, Beestin (May 69).

Unused subs: Marosi, Mandeville, Baudry, Kongolo, Garratt, Longbottom.

Booked: Wright, Houghton.

Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance: 6,711 (462 visitors).