Exeter boss Paul Tisdale admitted Danny Whitaker's penalty miss proved the turning point as his side recorded a 2-0 win over Chesterfield, whose run of League games without a win stretched to 16.
The Grecians seized the initiative and scored two late goals to secure their first win in six matches and their first away from home since October 25.
And Tisdale said: "It all hinged on the penalty. They missed it and lost a bit of heart, that's what happens. It happened to us a few weeks ago and I feel for John (Sheridan, Chesterfield manager), I know how he feels."
Tisdale added: "We needed that win. The players followed my directions to a man and the performance was tribute to the hard work we've put in.
"The result really was important and I feel it would have been tough justice if we had lost."
Chesterfield assistant manager Tommy Wright said: "We are very disappointed. Both teams had opportunities and both goalkeepers made good saves but the penalty miss was deflating and then we lost two soft goals.
"Danny (Whitaker) is distraught in the dressing room but you don't blame people for missing penalties. It happens. The score was still 0-0 at the time so you dig in and get a 0-0.
"We are shooting ourselves in the foot at the moment. The penalty miss seemed to affect us and we need to be stronger mentally to deal with it. We lost our discipline - both goals were our mistakes. That was a game we needed to win but we need to put it behind us and kick on."
Wright accepted that the home crowd had a right to express their displeasure, which they did, and added: "We'll be okay. Confidence is not great at the moment but John's a strong character, we'll be strong and the players need to be strong.
"We have to believe we are good enough, mentally strong and get a win."