The Iron eased past Oxford into second place in League Two with a 2-0 away victory. Deon Burton scored his fourth goal in four games but spurned chances to score a hat trick as United threatened to run riot in the second half at the Kassam Stadium.
The 37-year-old headed in Marcus Williams’ cross to put the visitors ahead, but later had a penalty saved by Ryan Clarke after Deane Smalley handled in the box.
Wilcox made a change at the break with the ineffective Hakeeb Adelakun replaced by the returning Michael Collins. David Syers was pushed alongside Burton up front and the Iron looked much better almost immediately after the restart.
Burton was the next to go close, watching his one on one effort drop the wrong side of the post and then failed to connect with an Eddie Nolan cross with the goal gaping.
Terry Hawkridge was the next to test the Oxford keeper, cutting in before unleashing a left footed drive which Clarke saved well, before Christian Ribeiro hammered an effort wide when he could have pulled the ball back for Burton who was unmarked in the box.
Oxford, beaten at home by Plymouth on Boxing Day, eventually fell further behind when David Syers fired the second. A defensive error allowed Syers to race through and he lobbed the ball over the keeper cooly much to the delight of the 500 strong Iron faithful.
The hosts’ best chance went begging when Sam Slocombe upended James Constable, but dived to his right to expertly save Smalley’s spot-kick.
Slocombe was perhaps fortunate to only receive a yellow card for the initial foul and foiled the hosts again in added time with another top drawer reaction save.
The victory, Scunthorpe’s fifth of the season away from home in the league, extended their unbeaten run to seven games and was achieved despite the absence of suspended top scorer Sam Winnall.
It put them level on points with leaders Chesterfield, who stayed top because of their superior goal difference, while Oxford dropped from second to fifth, with manager Chris Wilder facing a job to lift his side for the New Year’s Day fixture at Newport County.
Reaction from Iron manager Russ Wilcox
“We weren’t at our best in the first half – that’s a certainty. Our passing at times was really disappointing but I want to focus on the second half.
“I thought the introduction of Michael Collins in there made a difference and got us playing a little bit more.
“I’m disappointed not to have scored more goals, we created some chances, and you know that at 1-0, even 2-0 it can be difficult to see out games.
“We’re joint top going into the New Year and I don’t think you can ask for much more.”