ROTHERHAM United swept into an automatic-promotion spot as they saw off a spirited Cambridge United challenge in a thrilling League One encounter at AESSEAL New York Stadium this afternoon.
The Millers were made to work hard for their win but extended their unbeaten record to 14 matches to climb above Wigan Athletic into second place.
First-half goals from Ben Wiles and Dan Barlaser put them in control and they then had to weather a spell of pressure as the visitors reduced the arrears.
Freddie Ladapo's header calmed home nerves and Paul Warne's men could have added to their lead as they hammered away at the U's net in the closing stages.
Rotherham had the game's first sight of goal, in the sixth minute, when Shane Ferguson crossed high from the right to the back post and Wes Harding's headed effort hit the side-netting.
Five minutes later, a deft Kieran Sadlier pass freed up Will Grigg to deliver the ball to Shane Ferguson whose stooping header was kept out right on the line by goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov.
Midtable Cambridge, competitive and quick to break, had started well, but Rotherham were beginning to get on top and a Sadlier long-ranger stung Mitov's hands before the quarter-hour mark had passed.
Twinkling skill by Chiedozie Ogbene, fresh from Republic of Ireland duty, set up striker Grigg for a low shot saved by Mitov before the wing-back went down under pressure from Harrison Dunk.
It looked a penalty to most people in the stadium but not to referee Andy Davies who turned a deaf ear to the appeals howling around New York on the pitch and in the stands.
A mild autumnal afternoon took on some heat in the 33rd minute when the home side took the lead.
Ferguson crossed from the left and when the ball fell for Wiles the young midfield hit his volley so sweetly that the ball was flashing into the back of the net almost before Mitov could react.
It sparked the crowd into life and the chants were ringing round the stadium as the Millers continued to attack.
As half-time approached, Grigg, under pressure and falling, couldn't direct Wiles' tempting cross on target.
Cambridge remained a threat and passed up a big opportunity when George Williams' hit the bar from Wes Hoolahan's raking supply, while at the other end Freddie Ladapo had a header saved.
The visitors were made to pay for their miss when a comedy of errors as Ladapo chased down a long ball ended with the centre-forward being felled by Conor Masterson's push in the back.
This time, the ref agreed with everyone else and Barlaser duly thumped the spot-kick past Mitov to give Rotherham a comfortable half-time cushion.
Ollie Rathbone had been laid low by illness so there was a chance to impress for Sadlier who was handed a start in his favoured attacking midfield role.
Ladapo and Grigg were paired up front in the absence of suspended Michael Smith as the striker missed out on a Millers league squad for the first time since his move from Bury nearly four years ago.
A welcome sight was Jamie Lindsay making his return on the bench after seven weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring tear.
Rotherham just needed to keep things tight at the beginning of the second half yet Cambridge were back in the contest six minutes after the restart when Hoolahan's clever back-heel set up Sam Smith for a precision, curled finish.
The Millers responded by peppering the Cambridge goal but a combination of blocks and wayward shooting kept them at bay.
However, the visitors, one of the better sides to come to New York, had been galvanised by their goal and soon most of the pressure was coming from them.
Smith's shot was gathered by Josh Vickers and Joe Ironside was only inches away from connecting in front of an open goal as they fought for an equaliser.
With the contest going from end to end, Sadlier did wonderfully to cut inside, break through the Cambridge rearguard and test Mitov's reflexes with a fizzing shot.
As the clock began to tick down, a Wiles slip allowed dangerman U's Hoolahan to feed James Brophy who was a whisker away with a low show across goal.
But Rotherham showed the character to kill the contest in the 81st minute when Ladapo rose to head home.
New York was rocking as Rotherham launched attack after attack towards the end.
Wiles produced a devastating run only to be thwarted by the stop of Mitov who denied substitute Josh Kayode his first Millers goal on the follow-up.
Job done on a testing day.
Rotherham United (3-5-2): Josh Vickers; Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Richard Wood, Wes Harding; Chiedozie Ogbene, Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser, Kieran Sadlier (Jamie Lindsay 75), Shane Ferguson (Mickel Miller 64); Will Grigg (Josh Kayode 68), Freddie Ladapo. Subs not used: Viktor Johansson, Michael Ihiekwe, Tolaji Bola, Hakeem Odoffin.
Cambridge (4-1-4-1): Dimitar Mitov; George Williams, Conor Masterson, Jack Iredale, Harrison Dunk; Paul Digby (Jensen Weir 87); Sam Smith, Adam May, Wes Hoolahan (Harvey Knibbs 83), James Brophy; Joe Ironside. Subs not used: Kai McKenzie-Lyle, Jubril Okedina, Shilow Tracey, Jack Lankester, Ben Worman.
Goals: Wiles 33, Barlaser pen 45+1, Ladapo 81 (Rotherham); Smith 51 (Cambridge).
Referee: Andy Davis (Hampshire).
Attendance: 9,534 (399).