The old attacking partnership of Yemi Odubade and Rob Duffy grabbed a goal apiece as Oxford United stopped the rot with their first win in four games.

It may just be a victory which saves Jim Smith's job, and it certainly improved the fans' mood - considerably.

In a tempestuous game, Salisbury had Aaron Cook booked for inciting Oxford supporters when he celebrated his goal, their assistant manager Barry Blanklee dismissed to the stand for pushing Matt Day, and in stoppage time, Daniel Clay sent off for an outrageous challenge on Alex Jeannin near the corner flag.

For the U's, though, all that mattered was the three points and a return to winning ways after the embarrassment of defeat at Histon.

Michael Corcoran returned at the back for United with Arthur Gnohere injured, and with Marvin Robinson loaned out to Cambridge, Odubade was back alongside Duffy in a resumption of last season's main strikeforce.

The U's attacked towards the Oxford Mail Stand end in the first half and they built patiently, Phil Trainer an imposing figure in central midfield linking up play well.

There was one early scare for the home side when Eddie Anaclet's excellent interception saved the day just as Matthew Tubbs prepared to shoot.

Moments earlier, Paul Shaw had been sent tumbling in the box, but his, and the fans' penalty appeals, fell on deaf ears.

A smart Shaw pass set Jeannin clear on the left and his cross-shot was cleared in front of the Salisbury goalline with keeper Ryan Clarke beaten.

The U's got the lift they needed with a breakthrough on 19 minutes - and it was like the Duffy-Odubade partnership of old.

The big centre forward flicked the ball on deftly and Odubade hit a low left-foot shot past Clarke for a tidy finish.

It was Odubade's first goal at home this season, following his two previous strikes at Burton and Altrincham.

His confidence raised, Odubade was like a free spirit, and he released Jeannin for a cross that was headed away desperately.

Duffy then had an opportunity following a corner. Barry Quinn just failed to connect with Jeannin's flag-kick as he flung himself forward with his head, and the ball reached Duffy, beyond the far post. He volleyed over what was a difficult chance.

Salisbury showed their intent with some decent passing on a turf that was becoming increasingly zippy as the rain continued to fall.

Andrew Sandell sent over a succession of testing crosses from the left for the visitors, and from one, Rob Matthews laid the ball off to Tubbs, who shot into the side-netting.

The U's had had much the better of the first half, though, and they nearly increased their lead just before the break.

Odubade held the ball up well as he ran at goal with not a lot of support, and when he cut it back, Anaclet fired in a low shot that the keeper saved.

Players started to lose their footing at times as the steady rain became heavier at the start of the second half.

And Oxford were knocked firmly out of their comfort zone when the Whites levelled in the 54th minute from a long throw.

It was knocked on by Matthews, and Aaron Cook swivelled and shot home on the turn.

Cook raced over to celebrate over-zealously in front of the United fans, followed closely by his teammates, but the ref deemed that incitement, and booked him.

Salisbury had a period of ascendancy which must have left United's management concerned, and Cook miskicked when in a good position on the right of the six-yard box.

But with a quarter of an hour to go, Duffy's determination won the match-winning penalty. He reached a high, bouncing ball in the Salisbury area just ahead of Clarke, and went over the keeper's challenge.

The ref pointed straight to the penalty spot, but instead of booking the goalkeeper, his and everyone else's attention was drawn to the Salisbury technical area.

The visitors' assistant manager Blanklee and Day exhanged words, and Blanklee then came onto the pitch and pushed the U's defender. Over raced the ref, and the Salisbury official was sent to the stand.

Duffy brushed himself down and slotted away the penalty into the bottom left corner.

But that was nothing compared to Clay's disgraceful two-footed challenge on Jeannin in the third of five minutes of stoppage time at the end.

It summed up Salisbury's frustration at what they felt was a harsh penalty.