Wanderers survived a late scare to seal three points thanks to a blistering first-half display at Vale Park.
A brace from Adebayo Akinfenwa and a sumptuous strike from Paris Cowan-Hall set them on their way to what looked to be a routine victory, but the Valiants summoned a late fightback to put the result in doubt.
Dan Turner and Ben Whitfield found the net in the final three minutes but Wycombe held on for an away win at the first attempt in the new season, having had to wait until November 19th for the same achievement last year.
And it was the visitors who enjoyed a dream start, taking the lead inside two minutes through a tried-and-tested routine straight out of last season. Joe Jacobson floated a free-kick towards the penalty spot and Adebayo Akinfenwa beat his man comfortably in the air to guide the ball into the bottom corner, meaning that debutant keeper Sam Hornby’s first touch was to pick the ball out of his net.
Port Vale looked to the flanks to launch a comeback but a couple of early crosses were well dealt with by the Chairboys defence, while the Blues went close to a second when Sam Saunders’ direct free-kick whistled narrowly over the bar.
But it didn’t take long for the visitors to make it 2-0, and it was a beauty from Paris Cowan-Hall, whipping the ball home with pace from the left-hand side of the box as the right-back retreated, giving Hornby no chance.
Vale were stunned, and as their fans voiced their displeasure from the stands, grey clouds swept over the stadium and the gloom was almost deepened on the pitch when Cowan-Hall raced through on goal but rolled his shot into the keeper’s gloves under pressure from the covering defender.
Then Luke O’Nien flashed a shot wide from 20 yards after a smart passing move saw Akinfenwa roll the ball into the midfielder’s path, before the Blues were dealt a blow when Cowan-Hall was forced off with an injury as Southwell took his place.
However, that disappointment turned to joy seconds later as the third goal arrived, courtesy of a superbly-worked set-piece routine. Jacobson picked out O’Nien on the edge of the penalty area towards the right-hand side of the box, and O’Nien’s first-time volley was guided into the net by the head of Akinfenwa – his 20th goal in Chairboys colours.
Vale chances were few and far between, and a routine save from Scott Brown was as close as they got to scoring in the first half hour, with Nathan Smith’s header from a corner failing to trouble the Wycombe keeper.
Nathan Tyson saw a shot blocked following a long throw from Joe Jacobson, and then repeated the feat when Southwell won the ball back superbly from the full-back with the Vale defence all at sea. The ball stayed alive in the final third, and then O’Nien sent a fierce low shot at the keeper through a crowd of players.
The half-time whistle was met with howls of derision from the home fans but the job was only half done for the Chairboys, though there were perhaps surprisingly no changes in personnel from the hosts as the second half kicked off.
Scott Brown was booked early into the second period for taking a free-kick too far forward for the referee’s liking, before Sam Saunders drilled goalwards from 25 yards but found Hornby equal to it.
Danny Pugh was forced off with an injury around the hour-mark as Billy Reeves entered the field, and Dan Turner followed shortly after with Rekeil Pyke making way.
A rare chance fell the way of Tom Pope as Turner’s low cross landed behind the striker, who fired over the top as he adjusted his balance, and then action swung the other way as Southwell’s curling free-kick was brilliantly kept out low down by Hornby, with Tyson heading over from the resulting corner.
Wycombe’s second change came with Matt Bloomfield replacing Sam Saunders with a quarter of the game remaining, and moments later Akinfenwa had a sight of a hat-trick goal when he met Jacobson’s cross but planted a header wide of the near post.
Nathan Tyson was replaced by Nick Freeman as the game entered the final 10 minutes, with Ben Whitfield having come on for Cristian Montano for the home side, meaning Akinfenwa would have the full 90 minutes in hope of completing a second career hat-trick.
He nodded wide from another Jacobson free-kick before Bloomfield hit the target with a low shot at the end of a clever move in which Jacobson burst towards the box.
Vale pulled one back with three minutes remaining as Lawrie Wilson dinked a clever cross to the six-yard box with Dan Turner nodding home, although the three-goal cushion was almost restored straightaway as Southwell forced a save from Hornby with a low shot from 20 yards.
And Wycombe nerves were frayed as the clock struck 90 as Ben Whitfield drilled superbly into the top corner from a tight angle after wriggling free down the right, making it 3-2.
There were five minutes of stoppage time, in which Vale incredibly had hope of salvaging a point having been mere passengers for 87 minutes.
Southwell missed a golden chance to seal the points in the final minute, but was denied by the legs of Hornby which sparked a coutner attack leading to a Vale corner.
Wycombe had to put bodies on the line to keep the home side at bay in an incredible finale, but the Blues clung on for three deserved points which were very nearly snatched away from them in dramatic fashion.