Bury 0 Carlisle United 1: Towards the end of the first half, a Bury supporter tried it on with Carlisle's manager. "Come on John, give us a smile," he shouted. Sheridan turned and offered a few words back, but not the hoped-for beam.

That presumably came later, privately. United's boss may not be the giddiest of personalities but this was the sort of result to cheer anyone on the winning side: 1-0, away from home, 10 men, backs to the wall.

That ticks just about every managerial box. It may take more for Sheridan to break out the port and cigars but a climb to fifth will surely also have warmed his spirits as he keeps this Carlisle season on a positive path.

Watching the Blues head away, or otherwise survive, a series of Nicky Adams crosses in the second half at Gigg Lane was a particular attraction. It was defensive nirvana. Anthony Gerrard and Tom Parkes earned their money with one commanding aerial interception after another.

It always feels a risk to grant Adams the sort of space he often found here to go left or right before delivering quality into the penalty box of his old club. Yet Bury did not have a number nine dominant enough to accept any of his high-class service.

They did not, in fact, have a Richie Bennett, who struck the decisive blow for United. Carlisle's own big centre-forward has taken criticism this season, not least from himself, but this was a fourth goal in nine league games and another example of Bennett's usefulness when a decent chance drops.

His finish, after a corner-kick routine in the 52nd minute, was merciless, and there must have been times when Ryan Lowe, the home manager, wished for a strike as clean when the ball was curling into the other box. Bennett has not scored at Brunton Park this season but has been excellent away - one of the reasons, Sheridan said, why he kept him in the side.

There was further defending to be done in the scrum that followed Carlisle's winner. As fans spilled down the stand towards the purple-shirted players, some spotted Gerrard remonstrating with a steward who had allegedly got too physical with one celebrating Blues supporter.

Crowd-control duties taken care of, Gerrard returned to the back four, where he was outstanding. You could not have cried injustice had Bury eventually found their way to an equaliser - Adams also hit the bar - but results like this reflect very well on Carlisle's resolve.

"The biggest thing for me is we've bounced back again after getting beat," Sheridan added. "It's a good sign in a team." It was indeed a positive response to losing to Tranmere the previous weekend and a good return from two home games now (against Stevenage and Grimsby) can keep the Blues among the frontrunners for a spell.

Again - this is a better predicament than many feared at the start of 2018/19 and one must begin to wonder how far Sheridan can now take the Blues in what appears a very erratic, modest-quality division.

This game itself was a strange sort of epic. Sheridan felt Carlisle offered Bury too much space and respect early on and it was not until late in the first half that they found a bit of gusto themselves.

By then, the Shakers had shaken the woodwork and spent plenty of time in possession without extending Adam Collin too much. It was their wing-back system against Carlisle's 4-3-3 (Jack Sowerby coming into midfield for a striker, Ashley Nadesan) and for a large part Lowe's team had the ball, and passed it with more positivity, until the final act was required.

Then, it was less potent. Danny Mayor went on one menacing early run but eventually Kelvin Etuhu came in to break things up. That was a feature of Etuhu's display against his old club; after his injury-hit first Cumbrian campaign, he is now essential to the cause.

Chris Dagnall, a shadow of his previous deadly best, was denied by Parkes, and while Carlisle worked hard positionally, a glancing chance for Hallam Hope from a Bennett cross was the best they created. Bury targeted United's left side as Adams skipped forward, and when they went down the other flank and a deflected cross spun out of Parkes' control, Adams' finish from attractive space crashed against the bar.

The former United winger, who had fielded boos from some in the away end (as did Hope from home fans), remained on his toes, Macaulay Gillesphey battling to keep him under check. Byron Moore had a shot deflected wide and Collin sprung forward to push out an Adams cross. Jay O'Shea cleared the bar and only in the last few minutes of the half - a mishit Etuhu shot, a Hope run and cross that eluded Bennett - did Carlisle offer something more convincing themselves.

They found more, though, in a front foot start to the second period. Some early bustle from Yates earned a corner, as, moments later, did Gary Liddle after linking with Hope. The latter set-piece, according to Sheridan, was conceived on the training ground, as Gillesphey rose to help on Jamie Devitt's delivery, and Bennett did the rest.

Blue smoke rose from the Manchester Road Stand as United toasted their advantage. Those in the away seats, as they cleared their throats, probably also settled down for a remaining half of through-the-fingers defending, a classic feature of a Carlisle 1-0 lead.

That they got - to a point. Adams, on 58 minutes, curled just wide after a cross evaded Moore, and then Lowe introduced the craft of Callum Styles and the rawer frontrunning of Gold Omotayo as Bury continued to probe. Parkes beat Dagnall to the latest of Adams' repertoire, while Gerrard, wearing a protective headband, did likewise with others, including one skirmish when Collin punched and a Bury man sent the ball trickily skywards.

It must also be said that the home side got the benefit of ref Mark Heywood's doubt much more than United, while when more subs followed from both sides, the eye fell on Jermaine Beckford, whose CV places him much higher than a League Two substitute, yet who had not kicked a competitive ball for nearly a year.

The ex-Leeds striker was almost through immediately, but Collin got there first. After a brief stoppage, when the fourth official had to replace an injured linesman, Gillesphey joined in the aerial rearguard by taking a cross off Omotayo's head. Hope couldn't profit from a Will Aimson slip downfield, before Collin pushed away a Styles free-kick.

Yates then saw Heywood's red card, apparently for saying something rash to the officials when another decision went Bury's way. From there, more ball was fed to the right, for Adams, while Mayor finally drifted back in from the game's fringes late on, skimming to the byline and setting up Beckford for a blocked finish.

Six added minutes brought the usual cardiac workout for those of a United persuasion, Adam Thompson heading a great chance wide from an Adams corner, and more muck and nettles before the final whistle. At that point, Sheridan, if not from ear to ear, must have risked just the smallest of grins to himself.

United: Collin, Liddle, Gillesphey, Gerrard, Parkes, Etuhu, Sowerby (Glendon 69), Devitt, Yates, Hope, Bennett (Nadesan 75). Not used: O'Reilly, Miller, Slater, Campbell, McCarron.

Goal: Bennett 52

Booked: Gillesphey, Bennett, Etuhu, Hope. Sent off: Yates

Bury: Murphy, Stokes, Aimson, Thompson, McFadzean, Danns, O'Shea (Styles 59), Adams, Mayor, Moore (Omotayo 60), Dagnall (Beckford 77). Not used: Hudson, O'Connell, Dawson, Barjonas.

Booked: Thompson

Ref: Mark Heywood

Crowd: 3,657 (849 Carlisle fans)