Goals from Cody McDonald and a deflected Jay Emmanuel-Thomas free-kick secured the Gills’ second Sky Bet Leegue One in a row on Saturday, as they beat Walsall 2-1 at the Banks’s Stadium.
Gillingham took a second-minute lead from McDonald’s looped header, however they were pegged back in the ninth minute by Jason McCarthy. Emmanuel-Thomas fired home the winner - possibly with help from a Max Ehmer diversion - on 84 minutes, which means the Gills move above their opponents and up to 15th in the table.
The victory was the Gills' first away to Walsall in 17 games, a run dating back to February 1992's 1-0 victory at the Banks's Stadium.
Manager Justin Edinburgh made four changes from the midweek FA Cup tie at Brackley Town, with Baily Cargill, Scott Wagstaff, Paul Konchesky and Josh Wright coming in to the starting XI to replace Deji Oshilaja, Bradley Garmston, Ryan Jackson and Chris Herd.
There was also a place in the matchday squad for striker Greg Cundle, who started on the bench for the first time in a league game for the club. Ex-Gill Simeon Jackson started up front for Walsall, having missed the reverse fixture at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium back in October through injury.
Keen to make amends for Wednesday’s Brackley defeat, the Gills were in front within 100 seconds. Bradley Dack wriggled his way to the byline before managing to deliver a cross towards McDonald. Walsall couldn’t clear their lines, and, with the ball bouncing kindly, McDonald was the first to react, and headed home over Neil Etheridge.
Emmanuel-Thomas tried his luck five minutes later with a half-volley, but his attempt to add to the Gills' lead flew just over the bar from 30 yards.
The Saddlers controversially equalised on nine minutes through McCarthy. The right-back latched on to Joe Edwards’ lofted pass, bundled his way through the defence and after he appeared to handle Cargill’s clearance, he poked the ball past Stuart Nelson from an acute angle.
After a 20-minute period of little action and half-chances, the half ended as it began, with both teams having opportunities to take the lead. First, the Gills had a penalty shout turned away on 38 minutes. Emmanuel-Thomas picked up the ball after it was cleared from a corner, and drilled it across goal. The visiting players, management and fans were adamant that the ball had hit a Walsall hand, however referee John Busby waved play on.
On the stroke of half-time McCarthy and Josh Ginnelly combined down the right-hand side for Walsall, with the latter delivering a menacing cross that Max Ehmer did well to clear.
The Gills went on the attack straight away, and Billy Knott fed McDonald with a superb chipped pass, but the striker’s first-time volley just got caught under his studs and Walsall cleared any danger.
Cargill came to Gillingham’s rescue with almost the last touch of the half. Franck Moussa’s shot was deflected over the beaten Nelson, but the centre-back recovered confidently to dive and head the ball wide.
Walsall dominated possession in the opening first 15 minutes of the second half, however the Gills remained resolute defensively and restricted the Saddlers to long-range efforts on goal.
Erhun Oztumer tried his luck from 30 yards on 51 minutes, and again 180 seconds later, but failed to hit the target and work Nelson in goal.
Edwards went close for the Saddlers on 58 minutes, running onto Jackson’s headed knock-down and shooting just wide of the upright.
It was the home side’s turn to have a penalty appeal turned away on 72 minutes, after McCarthy and Jackson each had their attempts on goal blocked inside a crowded box, but they were only rewarded with a corner.
Ginnelly took the set piece, which was met by the head of Scott Laird and cleared off the line by Wagstaff, and the crowd behind the goal erupted, thinking their team should have had a spot-kick.
Edinburgh made a double substitution on 73 minutes, with Dack and Knott being replaced by Emmanuel Osadebe and Mark Byrne. And with the clock ticking away and a draw looking likely, the Gills scored a deserved winner. Captain Wright was fouled on the edge of the box with just seven minutes remaining, and Busby quickly awarded the visitors a free-kick.
Emmanuel-Thomas stepped up and kept his effort low, and thanks to a possible deflection from Ehmer, the ball flew past Etheridge and into the net, in front of around 300 noisy Gills fans.
Jackson, looking to score an equaliser against his former club, struck an audacious bicycle kick with just two minutes left, but his effort didn’t trouble Nelson, and the Gills were safe.
The Gills travel to Oxford United in their next Sky Bet League One fixture, before returning to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium to face Rochdale next Saturday (November 26). Click here for full ticket information.
Walsall: Etheridge, Edwards (Bakayogo, 87), Laird, McCarthy, Chambers, Jackson, Oztumer, Preston Ginnelly, Toner, Moussa (Cuvelier, 86)
Unused subs: MacGillivray, O’Connor, Dobson, Kinsella, Makris
Gillingham: Nelson, Ehmer, Wagstaff, Hessenthaler, McDonald, Knott (Byrne, 73), Konchesky, Cargill, Dack (Osadebe, 73), Wright, Emmanuel-Thomas
Unused subs: Hadler, Oshilaja, Donnelly, Oldaker, Cundle
Referee: John Busby
Attendance: 5,420 (away not given)