A stoppage time goal from Ritchie Sutton wasn't enough for Rovers to take home a deserved share of the spoils at Bury as second half goals from Nicky Maynard and Caolan Lavery sealed all three points for the hosts.
Tranmere created a number of fantastic goal scoring opportunities throughout the match but were unable to take anything away from the game as the Shakers secured all three points in the final game before Christmas 2018.
Manager Micky Mellon brought in Luke McCullough for Harvey Gilmour in one change from the win at Southport in the FA Cup on Monday.
It was a feisty start to the North West derby at The Energy Check Stadium at Gigg Lane, and the first ten minutes consisted of both teams getting a feel for one another in the final match before Christmas.
The first opportunity fell the way of the hosts, as defender Adam Thompson headed wide from a left hand side cross. A minute later, TRFC centre back Mark Ellis, in for his third consecutive start, sent a looping header over the bar from a free-kick on the left channel.
Bury had another half chance from a corner a couple of minutes later but Tranmere’s next opportunity came about in the 20th minute. A free-kick from Steve McNulty was nodded down by Connor Jennings into the path of James Norwood, who hit a first time 25-yard strike wide of the mark.
Former Bristol City striker Maynard was denied midway through the first half by a fabulous save from Scott Davies. Our number one was quick to palm away the experienced frontman’s effort after he turned away from Manny Monthe.
TRFC should have taken the lead just before the half hour mark, Norwood in acres of space in the box but hammered his close range strike over after a great cross by Jake Caprice.
Bury were the team seeing more of the possession, as Chris Stokes hit a thunderbolt from 30-yards just over, but Rovers were looking a threat of their own going forward, Norwood once again coming close, narrowly off target with a header from a Mullin cross.
Unfortunately for Rovers, in the 42nd minute, skipper McNulty’s match came to a premature end as he was taken off through injury, Sutton coming on as his replacement.
Tranmere should have been in front at the interval. Caprice, a nightmare all game from the right channel, got another ball in to the danger area. Norwood’s initial shot was well saved, and Jay Harris came in on the follow up but blazed over.
The hosts began the second half on the front foot and had a flurry of sights on Tranmere’s goal in the first ten minutes.
In the 52nd minute, Bury took the lead as Maynard’s header took a heavy deflection from a free-kick, leaving Davies with no chance in the Tranmere goal. Straight after the goal, Rovers responded with a change, Stockton coming on for Mullin in attack.
Rovers could and should have been level, Norwood with the goal gaping was presented with a glorious chance to equaliser, but the league’s top scorer hit over the crossbar.
Tranmere were pushing for an equaliser and an excellent switch field pass from Norwood set Caprice off on the right hand side, his cross was met by Jennings but the midfielder couldn’t find the target.
Tranmere’s final change saw Jonny Smith come on for Caprice, after a tireless shift from our number 14 with 11 minutes remining.
In a dramatic couple of minutes at the end of the game, Lavery scored after a mazy run to put Bury 2-0 up. A minute later, Sutton pulled one back with a header from a corner.
However, Rovers were unable to find an equaliser despite their efforts and now move on to a double header at Prenton Park against Morecambe on Boxing Day and Yeovil Town on Saturday 29th December.
Davies, Monthe, McNulty (Sutton 42), Ellis, Ridehalgh, Harris, McCullough, Jennings, Caprice (Smith 79), Mullin (Stockton 53), Norwood: Unused subs: George, Buxton, Bakayogo, Gilmour.
Attendance: 4,748 (1,241 away)