FC Utrecht ensured their Eredivisie safety this evening with a hard-fought but deserved victory at RKC Waalwijk.
Alje Schut and Alexander Gerndt grabbed the crucial goals in the final 14 minutes to move Utrecht 14 points clear of third-bottom VVV-Venlo, who have four games remaining.
The result left Utrecht only two points adrift of their ninth-placed hosts, who lost ground in their bid for a Europa League play-off place.
Yoshiaki Takagi produced the first noteworthy moment of a dull first half five minutes before the break, his shot after a surging run well saved by RKC goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.
At the other end four minutes later Evander Sno passed up the best chance of the opening period, Utrecht keeper Rob van Dijk pulling off a decent stop to ensure it was goalless at the interval.
Utrecht raised their game after the break and created the lion's share of chances in a second half that proved more pleasing on the eye than the first.
Gerndt found himself one on one with Zoet in the 56th minute and unleashed a shot towards the bottom left corner which the keeper did well to claw away for a corner.
Four minutes later Schut headed narrowly over the bar from Rodney Sneijder's free-kick.
Finally RKC's resistance was broken in the 77th minute, Schut heading beyond Zoet from Takagi's free-kick.
Eight minutes later it was all over as a contest, Cedric van der Gun's deflected shot falling kindly for Gerndt, who took full advantage and lashed into the bottom right corner.