It was nervy, but the 10 men of Ballinamallard got a crucial victory at Ferney Park on Friday evening.
The Ports could have closed the gap to 9 points with a win, but instead it expands to 15 - had the Ports not beaten the Mallards twice already, that gap would perhaps be insurmountable.
Crawford denied Hughes with the opening chance of the match, before O'Hara somehow headed wide from a corner when well placed.
McIlwaine also had an excellent chance with a header but he couldn't connect properly.
On 31 minutes the home side were reduced to 10 men when Ross Taheny was sent off for a tackle on Aaron Haire. Johnny Lafferty appeared to be on the cover but referee Tavinder showed the defender a straight red card.
On 36 minutes then Adam Lecky hit a fine strike in off the base of the post for his tenth league goal of the season, and the Mallards held off until half time.
The away side piled on the pressure in the second half but couldn't find an equaliser. Crawford denied Hughes again, Byrne shot over the bar, Shannon fired numerous efforts across goal and Frempong made a last ditch block on Hughes shot.
The Mallards were denied a possible penalty then on 80 minutes when McIlwaine was pulled down but it wasn't to matter as the home side held out for victory!