Nelson won 3-2 at Atherton LR on Tuesday night to move two points off the top of the NWC First Division, with a game in hand.
The Blues, with Liam Boswell released and Peter Wright injured, brought in Johnny Hession and Sakeel Abdullah.
Mark Fell’s side played up the slope at Crilly Park in the first half, and the first chance fell to Richie Allen, whose shot beat keeper Dan Lawton but was cleared off the line.
Brandon Barski’s cross was headed wide by Hession, before Ben Hoskin’s shot was charged down from a short corner.
Abdullah then sent a snap shot wide after being fed by Hession.
Allen had a shot saved by the keeper’s legs, and Hession headed the rebound into the keeper’s arms.
In a rare home attack, a quick throw found Mukendi, who blazed over from five yards.
Lawton saved at full stretch from Allen, before again denying the same player, and Barski then dragged a shot wide.
Against the run of play, Atherton took the lead when Danny Finch gave the ball away and Jordan Cover beat Ben Woodhead with a crisp shot.
This stung Nelson into action, and when Allen hit the bar, the ball was cleared to Robert Grimes, and the skipper hit an unstoppable shot past Lawson.
After the break, Barski found Allen, who lost his man, but his shot was headed off the line.
Allen again brought the best out of Lawton, and he had the ball in the net only to be pulled back for off-side.
However, the Blues went ahead when a deepcross from substitute Chris Turner was fumbled, and Allen tapped in.
Minutes later Lawton made a magnificent double save from Allen and Grimes, before a corner hit the underside of the bar and Hession forced in the loose ball.
Mark Ayres pulled one back at the death from the spot, but Nelson held on.
On Saturday they host title rivals Hanley Town at Victoria Park, kick-off 3 p.m.
On Saturday, Nelson were knocked out of the FA Vase, losing 2-0 at Jarrow Roofing to two first-half goals.