Marvin Ekpiteta’s second-half strike proved decisive as Leyton Orient edged out a competitive Chesterfield side 3-1 to move four points clear at the top of the National League.

Victory means Orient head into a Boxing Day London derby with Dagenham & Redbridge in good spirits on a day when nearest challengers Salford City lost ground in the race for promotion after defeat against the Daggers.

The centre-back’s 62nd-minute winner settled a full-blooded contest and ended the Spireites’ long unbeaten run after Alex Kiwomya’s header had temporarily cancelled out Josh Koroma’s opener.

Top scorer Macauley Bonne then made sure of the points in E10 with a late penalty as Justin Edinburgh’s side bounced back following just their second league defeat of the campaign at Boreham Wood a fortnight ago.

Orient began brightly as James Brophy got the better of Curtis Weston and found Joe Widdowson whose shot was blocked.

But the opener was not long in coming for the hosts as the excellent Koroma escaped the attentions of Haydn Hollis and fired home after nine minutes via a slight deflection from inside the area.

Soon after Charlie Lee was unfortunate to see his header from a Jobi McAnuff corner strike the back of a Chesterfield player, however the visitors were themselves growing into the contest.

After Sam Ling fired wide following good approach play from Koroma and Brophy, the Spireites fired their own warning shot.

Former Chelsea trainee Kiwomya collected the ball from Levi Amantchi only to inadvertently fire wide when well placed.

The visitors’ greatest threat came from set-piece scenarios and Sam Muggleton’s pin-point long throws, so it was little surprise to see them fashion an opening from an excellent corner routine.

Remarkably, though, Amantchi was unable to poke home from a few yards out after a goalmouth scramble on 29 minutes.

It was an almighty scare though as the forward fell to the floor under pressure from Josh Coulson and was unable to get sufficient contact to beat Dean Brill.

However Chesterfield’s heightened tempo would bring a deserved equaliser just six minutes later as a swift counter-attack was clinically headed into the top corner by Kiwomya from a Lee Shaw cross.

That setback seemed to refocus Orient who ended the half in encouraging fashion but without the final ball to really test Callum Burton in the visitors’ goal.

They might even have retaken the lead just two minutes into the second half had Brophy opted to shoot and not unselfishly lay it off for Widdowson instead.

Chesterfield then had Burton to thank as he denied Bonne on a one-on-one opportunity and Koroma’s follow up was superbly blocked on the line by a covering defender.

The game had well and truly descended into a chaotic, frenetic end-to-end contest, and within a minute it was Martin Allen’s side’s turn to be left frustrated after Tom Denton’s close-range header was adjudged not to have crossed the line.

It proved crucial as just after the hour mark Orient retook the lead courtesy of a close-range finish from Ekpiteta.

O’s captain McAnuff, who was enjoying greater joy down the left-hand side than the right, coolly found his teammate who ghosted into space and blasted beyond Burton from two-yards out.

This felt like a contest that was far from over though and Chesterfield captain Jonathan Smith was afforded far too much time to set himself, even if his long-range effort was straight at Brill.

With so much at stake it was little wonder that the match had become such a cagey affair with Orient seeking to remain top of the National League pile.

Bonne nearly provided his side with the added cushion of a third goal with 10 minutes remaining, but he could only shoot straight at Burton.

But the game-clinching third would arrive on 85 minutes when Brophy was cynically brought down by Chesterfield substitute Joe Rowley.

Bonne made amends from the spot to register his 18th goal of the campaign and deliver the perfect pre-Christmas present of three vital points.

Leyton Orient: Brill; Ling, Ekpiteta, Coulson, Widdowson; McAnuff, Clay, Lee (Gorman 78), Brophy (Harrold 86); Koroma, Bonne (Alabi 90). Subs not used: Sargeant (GK), Happe.

Referee: Adrian Quelch.

Attendance: 4,755 (255).