Shay McCartan and Matty Pearson were the goal heroes as Stanley made it six games unbeaten with victory at promotion-chasing Exeter.

The Grecians hadn’t lost at home since November but the Reds deserved a vital three points at St James Park.

Both McCartan and Pearson have been in a rich vein of scoring form as 18th placed Stanley opened up a nine point gap from 23rd place – with games in hand.

The first real chance fell to Stanley on seven minutes when a short Sean McConville corner had McCartan weaving his way into the area but keeper Bobby Olejnik got a hand to turn the ball around the post.

Stanley were enjoying plenty of possession, with the dug-out appealing for a penalty for a push on Pearson which was waved away.

On 10 minutes McConville won a free kick around 20 yards out,  McCartan took it and curled it into the top corner of the net despite Olejnik getting a hand to it – it was McCartan’s fourth goal in six games and his second in two after his winner against Barnet on Tuesday.

Exeter had a chance to equalise on 16 minutes but Ollie Watkins fired across the Stanley goal while, at the other end, McCartan played a tempting ball across the face of the goal but no one could get the vital touch.

The next real opportunity came to Exeter’s David Wheeler on 32 minutes who raced into the area but saw his strike deflected into the side netting from Janoi Donacien.

Both sides were in the hunt for goals and it took a strong save from Marek Rodak to tip a Wheeler header over the bar on 41 minutes and the keeper also had to be alert to Reuben Reid who got his foot to a ball at full stretch.

Coleman replaced Sean Clare with Jordan Clark for the second half but it was Exeter who started off on the attack.

However, on the counter attack, Stanley came close to a second with Olejnik pushing out a Clark low strike and Jordan Moore-Taylor clearing the loose ball before anyone could pounce.

Rodak had to be alert to a Wheeler deep ball in but the Grecians keeper was the busier, turning around a blistering McCartan strike on 69 minutes.

And, from the resulting McConville corner, it was Pearson who leapt the highest to make it six for the season and give the Reds a two-goal cushion.

Watkins looked to get one back for Exeter but burst into the area and fired over the bar while Joe Grant also toe-poked an effort wide in a good position as Stanley held on for a second successive clean sheet.