OXFORD United slumped back into the Sky Bet League One relegation zone as they conceded a late header from Brandon Hanlan.

After Simon Eastwood saved a penalty from Tom Eaves at the start of the second half, the U's looked to be heading for a goalless draw in a scrappy, wind-affected fixture at Priestfield.

But an 89th-minute corner proved decisive, as Hanlan converted from close range to ease Gillingham’s relegation fears.

United had chances to take the lead themselves after Eastwood handed them a reprieve, but lacked the cutting edge to take them.

And with other sides around them winning, the defeat saw Karl Robinson’s side slip back into the bottom four.

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On the back of successive victories, Robinson opted to name the same XI for the third game running.

It meant Cameron Brannagan had to make do with a place among the substitutes on his return from suspension, while Ahmed Kashi replaced Samir Carruthers on the bench.

Style had been sacrificed for substance in the past fortnight – and the conditions at Priestfield were hardly conducive for flowing football.

Blustery wind and a patchy playing surface made for a scrappy contest which failed to register a single shot on target before half-time.

It felt like an afternoon for taking as few risks as possible and waiting for a mistake.

Several defenders were made to look foolish in dealing with high balls, which swirled in the breeze and left them heading thin air.

Given the circumstances, United will have been pleased to get through to half-time with only a few nervy moments in their penalty area.

Going the other way, Luke Garbutt seized on a mis-placed pass from Graham Burke and darted forward, but his threaded pass was just out of Jerome Sinclair’s reach.

Mark Sykes also got forward an unleashed a 20-yard shot which flew over Tomas Holy’s goal in the 11th minute.

Neither side could get a grip on the game, which was high on endeavour but low on quality.

Garbutt fired one effort wide from outside the box on his weaker right foot, before having the best chance of the half.

Sam Long’s first-time cross was measured, but fractionally too high for the Everton loanee, who from six yards could only head over.

There had been so little action, the referee had no time to add on at the end of the half.

But it did not take long for the game to wake up after the restart.

Just six minutes into the second half Gillingham were awarded a penalty. Dickie’s header back to Eastwood was weak and the centre back stuck out his arm to bring down Brandon Hanlan.

Eaves stepped up, but his low spot kick was saved by Eastwood diving to his right.

United were reprieved and within two minutes had a strong case for a penalty of their own turned down when Sinclair appeared to be shoved over by Holy at a corner.

Having sparked into life, the game became a battle once more.

In a bid to shake the contest up, United replaced Gavin Whyte for Garbutt, which had turned the game against Scunthorpe a week earlier.

The winger had far too much pace for veteran full back Barry Fuller, who was left trailing in his wake a couple of times.

And 17 minutes from time Whyte sliced a shot wide from Sinclair’s cross, which was just behind Sykes.

It was a waste, but was the start of a strong spell for United.

They peppered the Gills box with crosses but just could not get one to break their way. Connor Ogilvie made one outstanding block to deny Jerome Sinclair from another Whyte centre, before Jordan Graham had a shot tipped over.

United looked the most likely to go on and win the game at that stage, but were undone late on at a set piece.

Gillingham (4-1-2-1-2): Holy, O’Neill, Ehmer, Ogilvie, Fuller, Parrett (Reilly 72), Byrne, Da Silva Lopes (Charles-Cook 61), Burke, Hanlan, Eaves.

Unused subs: Hadler, Garmston, Reilly, Campbell, List, Rees.

Booked: Fuller.

Oxford Utd (4-1-4-1): Eastwood, Long, Nelson, Dickie, Ruffels, Mousinho (Kashi HT), Graham, Henry, Sykes (Mackie 90), Garbutt (Whyte 62), Sinclair.

Unused subs: Stevens, Hanson, Brannagan, Browne.

Booked: Dickie.

Referee: Ollie Yates (Staffordshire).

Attendance: 4,991 (656 visitors).