A rare Ritchie Sutton goal was the difference as Tranmere advanced to the FA Trophy second round with victory over rivals Wrexham in the cross-border derby.
Sutton’s first half header was enough to see off the hosts in a relatively tame encounter that Rovers controlled for long periods.
There were no sweeping changes from Micky Mellon, but with Lois Maynard injured there was a start for former Wrexham captain Connor Jennings in the Tranmere midfield, making his long-awaited return from injury.
Jay Harris attempts to out-fox his former club and press forward
With a lively travelling Super White Army in attendance, the first chance of the match fell to Rovers after five minutes, with Michael Ihiekwe’s shot blocked by Kai Edwards from six yards.
Jeff Hughes then picked up an early booking for a robust challenge on Edwards, ensuring that he would have to walk a tightrope for the rest of the contest.
James Norwood tried his luck from 20 yards but his speculative effort was well wide before Dragon’s stopper Shwan Jalal repelled a fierce effort from similar distance by Andy Cook.
Ritchie Sutton heads Rovers into an early lead
Tranmere had settled quickly and were creating all the chances. A purposeful header from Connor Jennings was held by Jalal following Jake Kirby’s cross.
A free kick from John Rooney on 20 minutes skipped across the Tranmere six-yard box but no Wrexham player could apply a crucial touch.
Rovers took the lead on 24 minutes when Lee Vaughan was fouled on the edge of the box and Sutton rose highest to glance Hughes’ free kick into the net for his first goal of the season.
Jalal was then forced to dive low to his right to stop an effort from Kirby, as Mellon’s charges looked to quickly double their lead.
Wrexham started to ask a few questions of the Rovers rear guard but found Steve McNulty virtually impenetrable before Anthony Barry pulled a 20-yard shot wide of Scott Davies’ goal.
Andy Cook attempts to put Rovers further in front, only to be denied by the Wrexham defence
The host’s best first half chance arrived three minutes before the break when a Rooney cross found the head of Jordan White but Davies was alert and acrobatically punched it over the bar.
A counter attack presented Rovers with a good looking opportunity two minutes before the interval, but Jay Harris elected to send a shot wide when a through ball to Connor Jennings looked a much better option.
Barry had the first shooting opportunity of the second half for Wrexham but his wild effort landed in the condemned Kop terrace behind the goal.
They went much closer a few minutes later when Rob Evans stuck a header just wide of Davies’ post from six yards out – a warning for Tranmere that their welsh rivals weren’t finished.
Andy Cook tangles with Wrexham's Jordan White
Mellon decided to make a change before the hour mark, taking off Connor Jennings for Ben Tollitt, who last week signed for Tranmere permanently following a successful loan spell from Portsmouth.
The 22-year-old wasted not time making an impact, skipping past two players before forcing a full stretch save out of Jalal.
Hughes then saw a shot deflected wide for a corner as the introduction of Tollitt provided fresh impetuous for the visitors.
James Wallace replaced Andy Cook with 25 minutes to play before club captain Steve Jennings came on for cautioned Hughes, as Mellon looked to close up any holes in the Tranmere midfield.
The players celebrate after a commanding first half puts them deservedly in front
Chances were at a premium but with 10 minutes to play Ihiekwe slipped in Harris who shot on the turn, forcing another low save from Jalal.
A free kick from Tollitt went just wide of the post before the exciting new signing had another effort blocked at close quarters. Norwood then saw a header saved by Jalal as Rovers tried to put the game to bed.
Harris stuck an injury time chance over the bar but it didn’t matter as Rovers moved into the second round of the competition and continue their winning habit under Mellon.
Mellon said: "We’re pleased to get results, especially in derby games because you’ve seen the amount of fans that have turned up today.
"As long as we keep getting clean sheets and keep getting results we’ll be delighted.
Micky Mellon salutes the 600 travelling fans as Rovers progress into the second round for the very first time
"I think we’d have to be honest and say we did control the game for long periods. There was a period just before halftime where maybe we never passed it as well as we could and never got across the pitch quickly enough at times to get that press on.
“Maybe we needed to work a bit harder but they came in at half time, re-jigged things a wee bit and we started to move a little bit faster and better with the ball.
“Then we got James Wallace and (Steve) Jennings on and you see the control that we ended up getting and then with Tollitt, he’s always a threat.
“On another day I think we could’ve got a couple more goals. But fair play to Wrexham they kept coming forward and made it a proper cup tie.”
Tranmere Rovers 1 Sutton 24
Half time: 0-1
Star man: Steve McNulty (Tranmere centre back)
Wrexham (4-4-2): Jalal, Edwards, Riley, Tilt, J Evans, Barry, Carrington (McDonagh 67), Evans, Smith (Powell 86), White (Harrad 67), Rooney Subs not used: Dunn, Bencherif
Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies, Vaughan, Sutton, McNulty, Ihiekwe, Kirby, Harris, C Jennings (Tollitt 54), Hughes (S Jennings 76), Cook (Wallace 64), Norwood Subs not used: Turner, Mangan