Steven Pressley says Mike Jones’ dramatic winner against leaders Lincoln could be the defining moment in Carlisle’s play-off bid.

Jones’ first league goal in nearly three seasons with the Blues earned a 1-0 victory which took them back to within a point of the top seven.

It capped a fine display against the 10-man visitors, who lost captain Jason Shackell to a first-half red card.

While the Imps’ bid to wrap up the title was put on hold by their first defeat in 20, Pressley eyed an exciting finish to the season for United.

On Jones’ first league goal in 92 appearances for the club, on his return from suspension, the manager said: “The three games before his sending-off he had come into the side and been amazing in his performances.

“We missed him last weekend [at Stevenage].

“It’s his first goal in about 3,000 league games! But it was a terrific finish, and could prove to be a huge goal in our pursuit of the play-offs.”

United’s victory, in front of a 6,819 crowd that included 2,099 travelling fans, came after seventh-placed Exeter had slipped up at home to Crawley earlier in the day.

Pressley said he had informed his players of the Grecians’ struggles as kick-off approached.

The manager said his side then rose superbly to the challenge against the runaway leaders.

“It was a really terrific performance,” he said.

“The players really applied themselves. We handled [Lincoln’s] physicality well, which was a big plus.

“We kept a clean sheet as well, something we have been short of recently. Adam Collin made a huge save and a very important one.

“Anthony Gerrard gave a colossus performance. He was excellent and controlled the back four. I was pleased with his response in coming back into the team.

“To a man the players all contributed really, really well. We controlled the game for long periods even before the sending-off and went about our business in the correct manner.”

Pressley said he had been weighing up a substitution at the moment Jones broke the deadlock on 77 minutes.

“I was considering one more change at the time. I had spoken to both Paul Murray and Tommy Wright about it. Although we were getting in wide areas, delivering crosses, we didn’t have that player of size to get on the end of it,” he said.

“Then we scored, so the change wasn’t required.

“There was a bit of heart-in-mouth towards the end but we got over it.”

Pressley said the win was a reward for his team and United’s fans and said it is essential they do not let their display go to waste.

They go to Grimsby on Easter Monday before fixtures against Crawley and Yeovil – a positive haul of points needed to maximise their play-off chances.

“It was an electric atmosphere,” Pressley said. “The way the players and supporters went about it shows why this club can be a special club.

“It showed we are a very capable team when we get our focus right.

“Last weekend at Stevenage was such a disappointing performance and we can’t allow that to happen again. We can’t slip back to that.”