Two goals from Jordan Ponticelli earned play-off chasing Coventry a hard-fought win in the Checkatrade Stadium sunshine.
Lewis Young had netted for the third time this season in the 12th minute to equalise Ponticelli’s fourth-minute opener.
But Reds struggled to create anything in the second half and Ponticelli bent a lovely shot past Glenn Morris to seal victory with 12 minutes to go.
Harry Kewell made one change to the side which won at Port Vale a week ago as Thomas Verheydt made his first start for two months with Panutche Camara dropping to the bench.
The game got off to a lively start with two goals in the opening 12 minutes.
Coventry went ahead in the fourth minute. Karlan Ahearne-Grant was dispossessed and Marc McNulty got in down the right to pick out Ponticelli, who drove the ball inside the bottom left-hand corner from 12 yards.
But Reds were soon level. Lee Burge produced a brilliant double save to keep out Verheydt’s volley and Jimmy Smith’s low drive but a minute later the same players combined superbly inside the box and the Dutchman’s precise pass found Young in space to pick his spot in the bottom corner from the right-hand side of the box.
The equaliser enthused Reds and Ahearne-Grant was inches away from heading in Young’s cross. The defender then gave the ball away to Jonson Clarke-Harris who rattled a shot from 25 yards which Glenn Morris tipped over the bar at full stretch.
Tajbakhsh was booked for bringing down Clarke-Harris, who had switched to the right to attack the defender and after a lively first third there was something of a lull as both sides tried to build patiently. Coventry might have scored in the 43rd minute when Liam Kelly caught Ahearne-Grant in possession but his shot from just inside the box was saved by Morris.
Karlan Ahearne-Grant battles for possession in the first half. Photo by James Boardman
There was little attacking intent from either side at the start of the second half with both teams guilty of sloppy passing and poor ball retention. There were free kicks aplenty to further disrupt the flow and the exciting start to the game seemed a distant memory with 30 minutes to go.
Kewell brought on Panutche Camara and Josh Doherty in the space of two minutes and Smith was close on a couple of occasions to latching onto through balls in the six-yard box from Ahearne-Grant and Payne, but as the game entered its final quarter neither keeper had been tested in the second half.
That finally changed with 19 minutes to go when Reds made an awful mess of clearing their lines on the edge of the box and Morris came to the rescue as he rushed out of his goal to deflect McNulty’s shot for a corner.
Coventry were now on top and Morris saved his side again in the 77th minute when a cross found its way to Jack Grimmer whose low shot was kept out by Morris, but the Sky Blues weren’t to be denied. A minute later sub Max Biamou teed up Ponticelli and he curled a superb left-foot shot from 15 yards inside the far post to make it 2-1.
Reds brought on Jordan Roberts for Josh Payne as they chased their first home win for two months and their only chance of an equaliser came in the 85th minute when Young picked out Smith 15 yards out but the skipper dragged his shot wide of the post.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly, Yorwerth, Tajbakhsh (Doherty 60); Bulman, Payne (Roberts 80); Boldewijn, Smith, Ahearne-Grant; Verheydt (Camara 60). Unused subs: Mersin, McNerney, Randall, Sanoh.
Attendance: 3294 (1197 Coventry).
Man of the match: Josh Payne
Main picture: Lewis Young celebrates his third goal of the season. Photo by James Boardman