JOHN Mousinho and Todd Kane converted penalties as Oxford United came from behind to secure their Sky Bet League One status for next season by beating Rochdale.

A sleepy game burst into life just before the hour mark, when Bradden Inman opened the scoring for the relegation-threatened visitors.

United needed a point from the final to avoid relying on other results going their way – and they quickly responded.

Converting penalties has been a struggle for United this season, but Mousinho hammered home the equaliser after Joe Rothwell was fouled in the box.

The skipper declined to take a second penalty when substitute Rob Hall was felled seven minutes from time, so Kane assumed the duties and buried his effort from 12 yards.

It was enough to kill off Dale, who are deep in trouble with one game remaining, but United’s third win in four games ensures they are now safely in mid-table.

With United still not mathematically safe going into the game, boss Karl Robinson resisted the urge to make changes and sent out the same XI which began at Doncaster Rovers a week earlier.

James Henry, who scored the crucial winner at the Keepmoat Stadium, was not among the substitutes, though, after becoming a father earlier in the afternoon.

Rochdale began the day out of the relegation zone only on goal difference and were first to threaten.

Bradden Inman was given space 20 yards out early on and he should have done better than firing well off target.

United stirred themselves and Dale keeper Josh Lillis was kept busy in a flurry of shots from the home side.

He needed two attempts to gather Jon Obika’s low shot on the turn from 12 yards, but cleanly handled Wes Thomas’s left-footed strike after the visiting defence had been stretched by good work from Joe Rothwell and Ryan Ledson.

They were routine stops, but the same could not be said about Simon Eastwood’s outstanding save in the 25th minute.

Calvin Andrew must have thought he had buried his header from four yards, but the goalkeeper stuck out a hand to divert the ball wide for a corner.

United responded nine minutes before the break.

Centre back Rob Dickie strode forward into space and measured an excellent pass for Thomas to cross low. Obika got to the ball first at the near post, but Lillis blocked the shot with his legs and the rebound fell safe for the visitors.

There was no stoppage-time at the end of a half which had stubbornly refused to catch light and the game meandered along again after the restart.

A point was fine for United, but the margins were slender and just before the hour mark they fell behind.

It took a slice of misfortune, as a shot was blocked straight into Inman’s path, but he showed a cool head to drift past a challenge and slot into the far corner of Eastwood’s net.

“We are staying up” chanted the away end, but within three minutes they were silenced.

Rothwell did superbly to keep a loose pass in play and when he drove into the box Callum Camps made an ill-advised challenge and the midfielder tumbled.

With Henry, who converted the last penalty, not on the pitch, Mousinho took the initiative and grabbed the ball.

The skipper had not scored for United, but showed no signs of nerves as he lashed the ball into the top right corner of Lillis’s net.

Inman fired wide under pressure from Josh Ruffels as Dale almost re-took the lead within seconds.

The game then turned after substitute Rob Hall collected a booking for a late tackle on Harrison McGahey.

It appeared to affect the visitors, who then targeted the winger. Ryan Delaney and Oliver Rathbone were booked for late tackles on Hall, with the latter challenge particularly ugly.

The substitute then worked his way into the box and tumbled as Camps again made a bad decision. Referee Nicholas Kinseley initially waved away United’s appeals, but his mind was changed by his assistant, who was then surrounded by Dale players.

With Mousinho staying on the halfway line, Kane took over the penalty duties and coolly slotted into the right corner as Lillis dived the other way.

Dale threw on attacking substitutes, but even with the addition of six minutes of stoppage-time they did not threaten an equaliser as United held on for three points.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Eastwood, Kane, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffels, Brannagan, Mowatt (Hall 60), Ledson, Rothwell (Ricardinho 89), Thomas (Napa 75), Obika.

Unused subs: Shearer, Carroll, Martin, Nelson.

Booked: Hall, Ledson.

Rochdale (3-5-2): Lillis, McGahey, McNulty, Delaney, Thompson (Gillam 55), Rathbone, Rafferty, Camps (Davies 86), Done, Andrew, Inman (Dobre 86).

Unused subs: Moore, Ntlhe, Wiseman, Hart.

Booked: Camps, Delaney, Rathbone.

Referee: Nicholas Kinseley (Essex).

Attendance: 8,375 (540 visitors).