Bournemouth edged their way to vital victory in front of their sell-out but anxious home crowd but they were made to work hard by a Carlisle side who bossed long spells of the game.
The Cumbrians looked the better side for most of the first half and they almost grabbed the lead with their first attack as they took the initiative in a fast-paced game.
A slip from Elphick on the edge of his own area allowed Loy to take possession, and he spotted Noble in plenty of space. Striker Lee Miller called for it but his shot on the run went straight at Allsop. The keeper fumbled but Elphick recovered to scoop the ball away to safety.
The Cherries tried to play it on the ground and they fashioned a half chance when Francis sent the ball in. Cook rose to meet it but he guided his header well wide.
United looked the more composed and Loy almost capitalised from a high ball which bounced between keeper and defender. Francis got just enough on it to prevent a poke into the back of the net.
Jon-Paul McGovern caused problems and he clipped a pinpoint crossfield pass into the path of Matt Robson as United broke at pace. A low cross brought a dummy from Loy and Ryan Allsop produced a magnificent save to stop Miller’s fierce goal-bound effort.
Failure to break the stubborn Cumbrian back line down brought frustration to the home ranks and O’Kane resorted to a hopeful long distance grass-cutter in a bid to get things going. His team mates responded and former-loanee Harry Arter opened things up when he stayed strong on the ball. His pass took Grabban clean through and Gillespie had to be at his best to make a diving block.
United fell asleep for the resulting corner and a short routine involving Ritchie and Grabban put Francis in a good area. Steve Cook pulled off his marker to loop a neat header into the back of the net despite a fingertip touch from the keeper.
The game returned to type after the goal with Carlisle asking most of the questions courtesy of the width supplied by McGovern and Robson. Elphick twice scopped dangerous balls out of the six-yard box as the pair peppered the area with dangerous deliveries.
And Noble was disappointed when he found unexpected space on the edge of the Cherry box. He decided not to shoot and his pass to Robson drifted harmlessly away. Gillespie had to run smartly off his line as Bournemouth countered and his block at Grabban’s feet prevented the big front man from pushing on.
The visitors ended the half on top and O’Hanlon threw himself at a McGovern inswinger as he came under pressure from his marker. Mustoe recovered the loose ball and it was O’Hanlon again who skimmed a header just past the post.
United should have been back on terms just before the break when McGovern robbed Cook on the right flank. The initial cross was just in front of the stretching Lee Miller but Robson was on hand to cut the ball back. Rory Loy had time and space but he rushed his shot as he spun on the spot and his rasping volley crashed away to safety off the centre of the crossbar.
Carlisle got the equaliser their play deserved early in the second half when they put men in the box for a McGovern corner. The initial delivery was cleared but Berrett pulled wide and executed a teasing deep cross. McGovern did well to head it back into the area and Lee Miller grabbed club top scorer status with a peach of an overhead kick which keeper Ryan Allsop could do nothing about.
But a lapse of concentration just six minutes later allowed the Cherries to creep back on top. Grabban did the early damage when he burst through to unleash a thundering drive. A parry from Gillespie appeared to do the trick but Harry Arter won it back and found the bottom corner with a crisp left-foot shot.
Charlie Daniels almost extended the lead as Bournemouth finally found their rhythm but he couldn’t keep his header down as he tussled with Livesey in the area.
Bournemouth settled into their stride with Arter pulling the strings and his pass for Pitman invited an early attempt. Gillespie was relieved to see it graze the woodwork on its way into the stands. Potts did well to stop Grabban in his tracks as the pressure mounted and the icing was added to the cake following more trickery from Arter. The ball worked its way to Pitman and he crunched an accurate volley into the bottom corner to seal a very hard-fought and important victory.
“I think we have to be very pleased with our performance,” manager Greg Abbott said. “We played well and we created some excellent chances. If one of those had gone in then it might have been a different story. The goals we conceded were sloppy, and that’s been a problem for us this season, but the signs are there that we are getting back to the levels we want. Today was about playing the atmosphere and the fact that Bournemouth were chasing automatic promotion, and I thought we did that very well."
Bournemouth - Cook (25), Arter (56), Pitman (90)
United - Miller (50)
Bournemouth - Daniels (71), Francis (83)
United - Berrett (65), Noble (71)
Bournemouth - Allsop, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, O'Kane (Hughes 67), Pugh, Grabban (MacDonald 88), Pitman. Subs - Jalal, Seaborne, Fogden McQuoid, Tubbs.
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Potts, Livesey, O'Hanlon, Mustoe (Beck 90), McGovern (Salmon 82), Noble, Berrett, Robson, Miller, Loy (Manset 77). Subs - Collin, Murphy, Edwards, Todd.
Referee - Mr Mick Russell
Attendance - 9,014 (373 away fans)