JON Obika’s late header proved the difference as Oxford United claimed back-to-back home wins for the first time this season.

In truth, it was a poor game which looked destined to end goalless until the striker glanced in a free-kick from Alex Mowatt’s first touch.

The most relieved man at the Kassam Stadium will have been Gino van Kessel, who greedily wasted a golden opening early on when Wes Thomas was free for a tap-in.

United were also indebted to Simon Eastwood, who made several fine stops to keep the scores level.

It laid the platform for Obika’s seventh goal of the season – and third in as many games – to clinch a scrappy victory which moved the U’s to within three points of the Sky Bet League One play-off positions.

New signing Rob Dickie was named among the United substitutes as Pep Clotet made just one change to the starting line-up.

It was enforced, with Dwight Tiendalli replacing the suspended Ricardinho, while Xemi returned on the bench with Agon Mehmeti suffering from illness.

United were looking to build on Monday’s 3-1 victory against Milton Keynes Dons and should have done just that in the ninth minute.

Van Kessel charged down a pass from Curtis Tilt on the halfway line and raced clear. The forward had just Christoffer Mafoumbi to beat, but he made a mess of rounding the goalkeeper and the chance went begging.

It was a bad miss, made much worse by the fact Wes Thomas was unmarked to his right – a simple square pass would have meant an easy tap-in.

While it looked a wasted opportunity at the time, the lack of quality on show for the rest of the half made it even more significant.

Let off the hook, Blackpool went on to make themselves at home.

The Tangerines were patient in possession but in Sessi D’Almeida they had a powerful midfielder who carried the ball with purpose.

They forced several corners, with one leading to a rising long-range effort from Clark Robertson which was tipped over by Eastwood just before the quarter-hour mark.

The U’s No 1 made an even better save on 27 minutes, keeping out Kelvin Mellor’s volley at the back post after the hosts had been opened up on the break.

That chance came from a United move which broke down in Blackpool’s half, which became a common theme in an error-strewn contest.

The hosts did not carve out another chance anywhere near as clear as Van Kessel’s early sight of goal.

Perhaps mindful of his earlier error, the forward laid on a cross which Thomas fired into the car park.

Canice Carroll fired tamely at Mafoumbi when a corner came his way late in a half where there was little to warm the crowd on an icy afternoon.

The hope was the interval would lead to improvements when the game restarted, but the ball continued to resemble a bar of soap in the second half.

Both sides struggled to string a succession of passes together going forward, so chances tended to come from mistakes.

Aaron Martin got away with an error three minutes into the half when he failed to deal with a Nathan Delfouneso cross, but D’Almeida stabbed wide from four yards.

The Benin midfielder grazed the other post two minutes later, heading Viv Solomon-Otabor’s cross just wide.

Thomas fired a left-footed effort off target, but United lost skipper John Mousinho to an injury and Mike Williamson was preferred to Dickie as his replacement.

Eastwood then took centre stage, first clawing Solomon-Otabor’s 25-yard rocket round the post and then tipping over Robertson’s shot from the resulting corner.

They proved to be vital, as ten minutes from time United broke the deadlock.

Thomas was brought down wide on the left by Mellor. Clotet used the stoppage to replace Jack Payne with Alex Mowatt, who used his first touch to deliver the free-kick, which was glanced into the net by Obika.

There was still time for Blackpool, but they rarely threatened an equaliser as United ground out a valuable victory which made it two wins from two in 2018.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Eastwood, Carroll, Martin, Mousinho (Williamson 65), Tiendalli, Van Kessel (Henry 85), Ledson, Ruffels, Payne (Mowatt 79), Obika, Thomas.

Unused subs: Shearer, Dickie, Xemi, Napa.

Booked: Tiendalli.

Blackpool (4-3-3): Mafoumbi, Mellor, Robertson, Tilt, Turton (Philliskirk 82), D’Almeida (Cooke 67), Spearing, Longstaff, Daniel, Delfouneso, Solomon-Otabor.

Unused subs: Allsop, Aimson, Anderton, Ryan, Quigley.

Booked: Mellor, Tilt.

Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset).

Attendance: 6,775 (411 visitors).