by MARK PERROW
SECOND-HALF goals from Yala Bolasie and Rory Patterson kept Pilgrim heads narrowly above water in Argyle's unlikely pursuit of npower League 1 survival.
Following a dominant first-half display, Bolasie provided a deserved opener six minutes after the break, before substitute Patterson raced clear of a non-existent Walsall defence to wrap up the points and condemn the relegation-threatened visitors to a painful defeat.
Peter Reid made three changes to his team beaten 2-0 at Leyton Orient in midweek. Jim Paterson returned from a spell on the sidelines with bronchitis, while midfield linchpin Kari Árnason was back from a two match ban. Last but by no means least, forgotten man Simon Walton made his first Argyle start since a Championship date with Charlton Athletic on Valentine's Day 2009.
Falling out of favour were Bondz N'Gala, Anton Peterlin and Rory Patterson, who all reverted to bench duty as Reid attempted to stifle the midfield in the aftermath of a performance which saw Argyle concede twice in the opening 13 minutes in East London.
Argyle failed to make the most of their first foray into Walsall territory, which followed a strong start from the visitors. But from a Saddlers corner, Joe Mason was able to break free with Árnason and Bolasie in support with only two defenders to beat. But with Árnason seemingly the man better placed, Mason attempted to find the more fleet-footed Bolasie with a more difficult ball, and the chance was gone.
Suddenly it was all Argyle. Árnason and Rory Fallon both tried their luck from distance, before Fallon's 10th minute header cannoned back off the crossbar from Walton's in-swinging corner.
Moments later Duguid had the best chance of all, but fluffed his lines when left alone inside the Walsall penalty area, only to be excused by an offside flag, before another Fallon header cleared the crossbar following some neat interplay down the Argyle left.
Pleasantly surprisingly, that was not the end of the slick counter-attacking down that flank, and Jim Paterson almost added another to the long line of spectacular Argyle goals this season, only to fizz a rising drive narrowly beyond the far post after good work from Bolasie and Árnason.
Just as it seemed a formality that Argyle would score first, they nearly fell behind when David Button made a hash of trying to prevent a corner, and instead only succeeded in presenting the ball to Darren Byfield, before a retreating Green mass managed to bail out the recalled 'keeper.
That minor scare aside, the Pilgrims were still in control. Skipper Carl Fletcher's speculative miss-hit into the ground nearly caught out veteran stopper Jimmy Walker, before the 37-year-old was called upon to repel a Joe Mason header after more impressive work by the lively Bolasie.
There was still time for Fallon to come close with yet another header from Walton's eighth corner of a first half culminating in Argyle being applauded off by the Green Army, who could have no complaints over the approach of their team.
The opening exchanges of the second half suggested the tide was not about to turn, with another header propelling Walker into action after Mason connected powerfully with Árnason's right-wing cross.
The breakthrough - when it came - was thoroughly deserved. Unsurprisingly, it came from another cross, this time from Duguid, and after Mason failed to control Fallon's header back across goal, Bolasie was perfectly positioned to slam home from close range.
Having worked so hard to score once, Argyle seemed reluctant to keep doing so, and instead spent many of the ensuing minutes dropping gradually deeper, albeit without inviting too much pressure. Mason's looping header provided some welcome rest bite, but only found the top of the net, as opposed to the roof. Different things in this game, y'know.
With results elsewhere going the way of fellow strugglers, Walsall needed a goal just as much as Argyle had to hang on. Matt Richards had Button at full stretch from a 25-yard free-kick, but Patterson had the final say two minutes from time.
Argyle (4-3-3): 31 David Button; 2 Karl Duguid, 35 Curtis Nelson, 36 Stéphane Zubar, 29 Jim Paterson; 28 Simon Walton, 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 11 Kári Árnason; 16 Joe Mason (10 Jed Harper-Penman 90), 14 Rory Fallon (8 Rory Patterson 84), 19 Yala Bolasie.
Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 3 Bondz N'Gala, 21 Anton Peterlin, 23 Krisztián Timár, 34 Luke Young.
Booked: Fallon 75, Patterson 85.
Walsall (4-5-1): 29 Jimmy Walker; 2 Darryl Westlake, 6 Emmanuele Smith, 32 Andy Butler (capt), 28 Tom Williams; 30 Emmanuel Ledesma (10 Jonathan Macken 54), 26 Marc Laird, 23 Marc-Antoine Gbarssin (11 Alex Nicholls 69), 8 Matt Richards, 18 Julian Gray; 9 Darren Byfield (27 Jordan Cook 54).
Substitutes (not used): 4 Clayton McDonald, 14 Richard Taundry, 19 William Grigg, 21 David Bevan (gk).
Booked: Laird 61, Butler 75.
Referee: Keith Stroud.
Attendance: 7,993 (313 away).