LEAGUE One leaders Tranmere made it three wins out of three over the festive programme on an afternoon when Andy Robinson would not be denied at Gigg Lane.
Robinson, foiled by a penalty save by Bury goalkeeper Trevor Carson on the stroke of half-time and denied by the woodwork soon after the restart, darted and weaved his way through the home team’s cover to fire home Rovers’ winner on 55 minutes.
It was the midfielder’s first goal in almost two months.
Ronnie Moore’s team were full value for a seventh away victory of the campaign that extended their lead at the top of the table to three points.
They dominated the second half of a hard-fought contest by virtue of passing and moving the ball better than their hosts and scrapping effectively when they had to.
Bury, struggling in the relegation zone and missing players through suspension, injury and illness, put up determined resistance and were a match for the visitors over the first 45 minutes.
But they could not sustain the effort and Tranmere’s superior cohesion and confidence on the ball made a difference after the interval.
Tranmere were well served by centre-backs Ash Taylor and Donervorn Daniels, central midfielders Max Power and Liam Palmer and by Robinson, whose ability to open up spaces and opportunities in the opposition third of the field kept the home supporters on edge.
More than 1,000 travelling Tranmere fans made up a third of the attendance and they enjoyed loud celebrations as their team posted a first away win since the success at Oldham at the beginning of November.
Rovers did not allow a heavy pitch, which was sanded in patches, to discourage them from trying to play passing football from the start.
Bury were stretched by the pace of a couple of Tranmere’s early raids with Palmer and Zoumana Bakayogo prominent. Robinson fired the first shot of the game from the left-hand edge of the box, and his low effort took a deflection wide of the right-hand post.
Tranmere were thankful when Bury midfielder Tom Soares got behind their defence on the right and fired a low cross that Tom Hooper could only run out of play at the near post.
Bury, deploying a 4-4-1-1 formation, were often content to play on the counter-attack through the first half and were still able to give Tranmere some uncomfortable moments at the back.
Clever Rovers build-up play involving Robinson and Bakayogo ended in Michael O’Halloran running into the box from the left.
The front man, attempting to deceive Carson with a shot to the near post, did not get enough power on the effort, giving the goalkeeper an easy save.
Gregg Wylde had the home fans on their feet with a run from the halfway line that took him past two defenders before curling a 25-yard shot wide of the far post.
Tranmere were awarded a penalty on 44 minutes when a linesman spotted some shirt tugging in the box. Robinson, who scored two penalties against the Shakers in the corresponding fixture at Prenton Park in September, saw goalkeeper Carson guess the right way and dive to the left to deflect his rising shot to safety.
Robinson went close to making amends eight minutes after the restart, taking a sharp pass from Palmer past the full-back before rattling a 12-yard shot against the angle.
The midfielder seized on the rebound and after twisting and turning, fired narrowly over the bar.
But the irresistible Robinson was determined to change his luck.
When Palmer put another inviting pass into his path through the inside left channel on 55 minutes, Robinson took the ball inside the full-back and buried a shot into the far corner of the net.
Bury’s response was a 30-yard free-kick from skipper Steven Schumacher that bounced awkwardly in front of goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams, who made sure his body was behind the ball.
At the other end Carson denied Tranmere a second goal on 60 minutes with a full-length save from Adam McGurk, who ran onto Jake Cassidy’s through pass to fire a low shot towards the bottom corner.
Carson made another good save to touch out a free-kick from McGurk on 71 minutes as Tranmere kept the ball in the Bury have for long periods.
Bury needed unwitting assistance from referee Nigel Miller to seriously trouble Fon Williams for the first time in the game.
A ricochet off the official’s body landed conveniently for Schumacher, whose fierce shot from the edge of the box was smartly dealt with by the Welsh goalkeeper.
Tranmere were able to see at five minutes of added time without any major alarms.
BURY (4-4-1-1): Carson, A Jones, Doherty, Banks-Landell, Skarz, Wylde, Thompson, Schumacher, Soares (Carole 59), Worrall (Healy 84), Hopper. Not used: Sweeney, Hughes, Dibble, C Jones. BOOKING: Worrall.
TRANMERE (4-4-2): Fon Williams, Holmes, Daniels, Taylor, Bakayogo, McGurk (Stockton 77), Palmer, Power, Robinson (Thompson 85), Cassidy, O’Halloran. Not used: Mooney, Black, Goodison, Harrison, Kay.
REFEREE: Nigel Miller.
NEXT MATCHES: Saturday, FA Cup round three, Derby County v Tranmere (3pm); Saturday, January 12, League One, Tranmere v Crawley (3pm).