Max Kretzschmar was the hero again as his wonder-strike secured a resolute Wanderers a deserved 1-0 victory at St James Park.
Gareth Ainsworth made four changes, with three of those enforced as skipper Stuart Lewis, who had been playing with a hamstring injury, missed out along with Matt McClure who fell ill on the team coach.
Gary Doherty is sidelined with the serious arm injury he sustained against Chesterfield, while Paris Cowan-Hall replaced Anthony Jeffrey, who was named on the bench amongst just five others.
Former Wanderer Sam Parkin had the first chance of the game in the third minute, but he headed Liam Sercombe’s cross over the bar from eight yards after good work from David Wheeler.
Sercombe was heavily involved early on as the hosts targeted Blues’ left-hand side, but this time the midfielder was off target himself as he dragged wide from inside the area.
Reece Styche had Chairboys’ first half chance after reacting quicker than his marker, but he was unable to test rookie keeper Christy Pym.
Styche was looking Blues’ best threat early on and he almost opened the scoring in audacious style in the 11th minute. The striker turned his man on halfway before spotting Pym off his line and attempting to chip the keeper from fully 40 yards, however, the ball floated just wide of the post.
Matt Ingram was called into action for the first time in the 16th minute, but he did well to hold on to Matt Grimes’ powerful 25-yard effort after Wanderers had failed to clear their lines.
Pym saved well from Cowan-Hall following Chairboys’ most fluent attack in the opening quarter after Styche had broken clear down the left.
The deadlock was broken in the 21st minute and in some style. Man-of-the-moment Max Kretzschmar picked the ball up fully 35 yards from goal and curled a sublime curling shot over a stranded Pym and into the top corner.
Eliot Richards headed harmlessly over Ingram’s bar as the hosts looked for swift response, but it was Blues who were looking more threatening and a mistake from Pym almost allowed Cowan-Hall to add a second on the half-hour, however, his route to goal was blocked and Scowen fired over from distance.
A nasty head injury to Grimes disrupted play towards the end of the first half and the midfielder had to leave the pitch to be bandaged up, but the hosts should levelled in injury-time. Woodman’s dangerous in-swinging corner was met by Richards, who was no more than three yards out, but he inexplicably headed wide.
Half-time: Exeter 0-1 Wanderers
Neither side made any changes at the break with Grimes able to return following treatment, and it was Blues who were faster out of the traps as Nick Arnold had a penalty shout turned down after bursting into the area.
Paul Tisdale had seen enough soon after the restart as Parkin and the impressive Wheeler made way for Tom Nichols and John O’Flynn.
Arnold was involved again on the hour mark as he fired over from angle after Styche’s shot had rebounded off Bloomfield and fell into his path. That was to be Styche’s last involvement as he was replaced by Steven Craig a minute later.
Cowan-Hall’s shot was comfortable for Pym after the forward had cut in from the left, before Ingram showed sharp reactions to deny Scot Bennett following a corner.
Exeter were beginning to look more of a goal threat and the lively Richards was the next to try his luck from outside the area, however, his left-footed shot flew wide after Blues had given the ball away in midfield.
Craig had a chance to double the lead in the 70th minute but he headed Kretzschmar’s cross wide after a fine break that also involved Arnold, Cowan-Hall, Bloomfield and McCoy.
That man was involved again four minutes later when he reacted quickest to Pym dropping Arnold’s cross, but the Scottish striker was under pressure and he couldn't get enough purchase on the ball to force it over the line with Moore-Taylor scrambling clear.
Wanderers were starting to exploit the space left by Exeter and Kretzschmar should have done better in the 76th minute after he was played through by Scowen on the right-hand edge of the area, however, this time the 19-year-old dragged his effort wide of the far post.
Ainsworth made his second change with 10 minutes remaining as Jeffrey replaced Cowan-Hall and the hosts began to push further forward in search of a late leveller.
However, Nichols’ tame header and Grimes speculative strike, which Ingram comfortably held, were the closest they came with Johnson and Stewart imperious at the back.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Wood, Stewart, Johnson, Scowen, Arnold, Bloomfield, Kretzschmar, Cowan-Hall (Jeffrey 80), Styche (Craig 61).
Subs: Horlock, Kewley-Graham,Morgan, Kuffour.
Exeter: Pym; Butterfield, Bennett, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Sercombe, Grimes, Gill, Wheeler (O’Flynn); Richards (Oakley 77), Parkin (Nichols).
Subs: Krysiak, Baldwin, Davies, Keohane.Attendance: 2,540 (102 Wycombe)