The only change to the Spireites' line-up after the fine win at Rochdale was among the substitutes, where Terrell Lewis came in for Darren Currie. The Spireites won the toss and elected to play towards Cross Street first, in what was expected to be a game of patience in the face of resolute defending and poor conditions.
Darlington certainly competed in central midfield, with Allott and Perkins being closed down assiduously by Smith and Hogg whenever the ball went anywhere near them. The home side's most promising outlet was from the boot of Rob Page, but they weren't hoofed bombs that he aimlessly propelled forwards; every long pass was targetted wide left to Kieran Djalali had a cultured look about it.
The Spireites took eight minutes to fashion their first effort on goal. Djalali and Picken combined down the left and the latter's cross was met by the head of Small, but Liversedge was well-placed to hold without trouble.
A weak Lee kick on 11 might have presented a chance to the opponents but Little and Talbot worked together to close Thomas down, and rob him before he had a chance to shoot.
The Page/Djalali axis worked to its best advantage on 21, when the pacy winger cut in and thundered a shot goalwards, but Liversedge saved well, at the expense of a corner.
Chesterfield were in complete control of the game, thanks to patient play that included the willingness to use defenders and keeper to spread the ball around, retaining possession. It is possible to criticise the visitors' apparent lack of attacking intent, with Main ploughing a determined but noticeably lonely furrow up front, but it's difficult to attack when the other side keep the ball as well as Chesterfield did.
The Spireites' patience was rewarded when pressure brought a spell of three quick corners. Perkins took the third from the Pop Side / Cross Street flag; ROB PAGE and Miller jostled for position and Page won, directing a hooked volley off Giddings and into the net from around the penalty spot. It was the Welshman's first competitive goal for the club. Darlo claims for an offside against Lester were ignored.
Djalali showed frightening pace on 40, flying down the Pop Side to reach a pass, but the cross had too much on it to trouble a back-pedalling defence. The Palace man's pace again showed on the stroke of half time, when he forced Miller to concede another corner. Perkins' kick was only partially cleared and MARK ALLOTT drilled home a well-placed shot from around 25 yards to send The Spireites in, two goals to the good.
Halftime: Chesterfield 2 Darlington 0. Attendance: 3460 (207 from Darlo.)
The home side's reputation for charity was nearly reinforced soon after the resumption, when Picken's pass sold Lee a bit short, and the keeper had to play some football to deny Thomas.
There was a pleasing fluidity to some of Chesterfield's play, with Small and Lester reinforcing the idea that they among our forwards form the most natural pair.
Giddings went into the book on 51 for a foul on Talbot that was perhaps made to look worse by the skiddy surface. Certainly Drew was unaffected, and nearly extended the lead on 56, when his header from a Djalali cross was tipped over by Liversedge.
Steve Staunton made a double-substitution on 58, bringing Collins and Gray on for Main and Gary Smith. Within seconds, Collins pulled a goal back, but it would be an exaggeration to call it an inspired substitution, since the goal was presented to him on a plate. Tommy Lee was forced to come out of his box to deal with a through ball and dribbled on, unable to find a team-mate. He was robbed of possession some ten or soyards outside his box and the ball broke to Collins, whose lob from 35 yards sailed over everyone and into an empty Chesterfield net.
Darlington had a good ten minutes after that, rediscovering a determination to their play that had ebbed since the Spireites took the lead. As has recently been the case, though, Chesterfield held their nerve and were two goals up again on 67. KIERAN DJALALI picked up the ball some fifteen yards inside the visitors' half after Small was tackled and pressed forward towards the edge of the box before putting in a burst of speed and firing a fierce drive past the keeper and into the net, for his maiden senior goal.
Simon Thomas was booked for protesting that he was being fouled in the build-up; he and Wade Small had gone down, largely at Thomas's instigation, and the pair were spectators as Djalali finished in a blur.
Nathan Mulligan came on for Jeff Smith on 70. Two minutes later Tommy Lee pulled off a fine save to prevent Darlo getting another foot-hold, turning Thomas's fierce shot over for a corner.
Chesterfield made a double-substitution of their own on 80, bringing Boden and Niven on for Small and Perkins. Although neither had got on the score sheet, their contribution was reflected by the cracking reception they got on being taken off.
The Spireites seem to be a side that believes that if you've paid for ninety minutes of entertainment, then you should get ninety minutes of entertainment. On 88 Boden thundered a shot goalwards, and the faintest of tips from Liversedge took it against the bar; it bounced down as far one side of the goal line as Johnny Howard's was, the other. The ball went to the other end and sloppy defending allowed HOGG to tap a simple goal on his debut.
3-2 immediately became 4-2, though. From a Djalali cross, Lester scrambled determinedly in the Darlo box to work an opening for SCOTT BODEN, who crashed the ball home from around ten yards.
Davis went into the book at the start of five minutes' added time. SCOTT BODEN made it 5-2 after Jack Lester did all the hard work, beating men on the right of the box and crashing a shot goalward; it needed the young striker's attention to ensure that the ball went over. With ninety seconds left Terrell Lewis came on in place of Talbot for a Chesterfield debut, and was able to show a tidy touch before the referee brought proceedings to a close.