York City lie just one match away from ending their 17-year itch for a promotion-winning campaign.

Chris Carruthers was only nine when City last moved up a division with Wayne Hall’s winning penalty at Wembley securing League One football for the club back in 1993.

But Carruthers’ 47th-minute goal against Luton Town yesterday means the Minstermen will now clinch arguably a bigger prize – the reclamation of their Football League status – if they can overcome his former club Oxford at the hallowed home of English football on May 16.

City enjoyed their 11th 1-0 victory of the season and their second of this two-legged tie to overcome play-off favourites Luton Town at a hostile Kenilworth Road.

Incredibly, Martin Foyle’s men were still 4-1 underdogs to win the play-offs going into yesterday’s match despite now boasting a record of just one goal conceded in their last 11 matches against top-ten opposition.

City also remain unbeaten against any of their play-off rivals since a desperately unlucky 2-1 defeat at fellow finalists Oxford on the opening day of the season.

Only a fool would back against the Minstermen now although Oxford, who have shipped just one goal in their last eight games, are equally as obdurate.

Whether there has ever been two finer demonstrations of defensive resilience at this level than City’s home and away performances against a free-scoring Luton team, though, is highly unlikely.

Centre-back David McGurk was immense against the Hatters and, on the one occasion a home player did escape his attentions in Bedfordshire, the former Darlington defender produced the tackle of the season to deny Tom Craddock as he bore down on Michael Ingham’s goal.

Full-backs Ben Purkiss and James Meredith also enjoyed tremendous games to frustrate highly-rated wingers Jake Howells and Claude Gnakpa respectively, while Luke Graham was as dependable as ever and Levi Mackin once more illustrated his mature understanding of the midfield anchorman role.

While they might deserve special credit, every City player on show can be proud of their outstanding contributions to this victory, displaying the lung-busting work ethic Foyle demands from his team.

In contrast, Luton’s supporters heaped shame on their club after pouring on to the pitch with aggressive intent at the final whistle.

City’s players were forced to seek refuge with their own fans behind the goal during disgraceful scenes that will no doubt see punishment meted out by the relevant authorities.

The home fans’ frustrations might have been understandable but the manner in which it was aired was unacceptable.

Put simply, the Hatters were nowhere near a tactical match for their opponents over two legs and to steal a catchphrase from the town’s possible MP-in-waiting Esther Rantzen “that’s life”.

Earlier, the home crowd had channelled their passion to whip up terrific vocal support for their team.

Manager Richard Money’s players struggled, however, to match their efforts on the pitch, losing all their individual battles.

In the third minute, McGurk set the tone for the rest of the match when he blocked a Craddock attempt and Michael Ingham then saved from the same player at his near post.

Shortly afterwards, Alex Lawless called Mark Tyler into action at the other end before Craddock dragged an edge-of-the-box chance wastefully wide and Ingham pushed away a Kevin Gallen effort.

But City remained undaunted and looked the more composed outfit with Richard Brodie cutting in from the right and forcing a 23rd-minute save.

Strong runs by Brodie and Michael Rankine against a fearful defence might also have broken the first-half deadlock had either player produced a more decisive finish at the end of their good work.

The visitors did not have to wait much longer, however, for the breakthrough.

Carruthers was tripped on the edge of the box as the Minstermen made a positive start to the second half.

From the subsequent free-kick, Rankine’s low drive was only parried by Tyler at his near post and Carruthers, like any well-coached, nine-year-old schoolboy, followed up to find the net with a clipped finish from just three yards out.

The response from three sides of the ground was a shell-shocked eeriness while, at the other end of the pitch, City fans were unsurprisingly delirious.

Foyle reacted swiftly following the goal, dropping Brodie back to the left wing and switching to 4-5-1 as the inevitable flow of attacking home substitutions followed.

City still stood firm and Lawless twice went close to extending the visitors’ lead, while home captain George Pilkington’s blushes were also spared when his miscued clearance was hacked off the line by team-mate Blackett.

The Hatters’ best opportunity of a route back into the game came on 77 minutes when Craddock sprinted on to a through ball.

McGurk, however, made up tremendous ground and executed the perfect sliding tackle as the former Middlesbrough trainee prepared to fire past Ingham.

Half-chances later fell to Asa Hall, Craddock and Gnakpa and were not taken and, like his team’s fans, the frustration proved too much for right-back Adam Newton.

He was sent off by substitute referee Carl Berry for first kicking the ball away and then swearing at the unforgiving official.

Match facts

Luton Town 0, York City 1 (Carruthers 47)

(York City win 2-0 on aggregate)

York City: Michael Ingham 8, Ben Purkiss 9, Luke Graham 9, David McGurk 10, James Meredith 9, Alex Lawless 8, Levi Mackin 9, Neil Barrett 8, Chris Carruthers 8, Richard Brodie 8, Michael Rankine 8

Key: 10 – Faultless; 9 – Outstanding; 8 – Excellent; 7 – Good; 6 – Average; 5 – Below par; 4 – Poor; 3 – Dud; 2 – Hopeless; 1 – Retire.

Substitutions: Michael Gash (for Rankine 80 min), Djoumin Sangare (for Lawless 90), Daniel Parslow (Barrett 90). Subs not used: Josh Mimms, Courtney Pitt.

City’s star man: McGurk – colossus of strength. Hard to remember a tackle or aerial battle he did not win.

Luton Town: Mark Tyler, Adam Newton, George Pilkington, Shane Blackett, Freddie Murray, Claude Gnakpa, Keith Keane, Jake Howells, Simon Heslop (Asa Hall 72), Jake Howells (Liam Hatch 54), Tom Craddock, Kevin Gallen (Matthew Barnes-Homer 59 min). Subs (not used): Shane Gore, Janos Kovacs.

Bookings: Keane 52.

Sent off: Newton 90.

Referee: Rob Lewis (Shropshire).

Rating: gave a strong display, as did Carl Berry when Lewis was injured.

Attendance: 9.781.

Save of the match: Ingham’s strong 22nd-minute stop from Gallen.

Tackle of the match: McGurk’s incredibly-timed challenge as Craddock bore down on goal.

Shots on target: Luton 5, York 5.

Shots off target: Luton 5, York 3.

Corners: Luton 2, York 2.

Fouls: Luton 15, York 10.

Offsides: Luton 1, York 2

Head to head: Chris Carruthers v Adam Newton

City’s goal hero Carruthers did an excellent job pushing back former West Ham trainee Newton.

The makeshift Luton right-back, who normally operates as a winger, had few opportunities to attack down the flank and support Gnakpa, who was just as well shackled by Meredith.

Newton was also nowhere to be seen when Carruthers, who had won the free-kick, tapped in after Tyler parried Rankine’s shot on 47 minutes. His frustration was summed up by his red card.