All of the goals were scored in a topsy-turvy first half in which Carlton went behind, took the lead, conceded an equaliser and then scored what turned out to be the winning goal in first half added time.
The Millers twice hit the woodwork in the second half as they looked to secure the win, but Cambridge offered plenty of threats of their own and Carlton had to work extremely hard to bring the points back to Nottingham.
Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey made two changes to the side which had beaten Nottingham Forest U23s last time out, with Daniel Fletcher and Aaron O’Connor replacing Tyler Johal and Aaron Opoku.
The Millers started the game knowing that their sole rivals for the final play off spot Belper Town had drawn with Halesowen in an early kick off. That meant that a win would see Carlton reduce the deficit to the Nailers to two points with two games each remaining.
In sweltering conditions it was the home side who started the better and they were ahead inside five minutes. A long throw from the right was met by a looping header from Jordan Gent which dropped over Shaun Rowley and into the Carlton goal.
Moments later Khyle Sargent was injured in a clash of heads following a Carlton corner and he required a lengthy spell of treatment on the pitch before he was able to get up and walk off, replaced by Jared Holmes.
It was a disjointed start by Carlton and when they lost the ball in midfield on 27 minutes, Connor Barnes raced clear on goal and was only denied by an excellent stop from Rowley.
The Millers took full advantage and equalised on 29 minutes. A Rowley clearance was headed on by Nat Watson into the path of O’Connor who drew Danny Boness before expertly slotting home in front of the travelling support.
Within a minute Carlton were ahead. A long ball to the edge of the box should have been dealt with comfortably by the Cambridge defence, but with Blake hovering, Boness collided with Taylor Parr leaving Blake the simplest of tap-ins.
The Lillywhites weren’t about to give up though and they were level seven minutes later. A corner wasn’t cleared, there was a scramble in the box, the ball seemed to hit a post before being bundled over the line by Gent.
With the game entering nine minutes of first half added time due to the injury to Sargent, Carlton should have regained the lead. A lovely Watson cross was volleyed wide of goal by Blake from six yards.
But like all top strikers, Blake simply picked himself up and made sure he didn’t miss the next chance, which fell his way shortly afterwards. A delightful through ball from Alex Howes beat the offside trap and Blake ran through on the right before firing into the corner of the net.
The home side began the second half on top and Rowley made a fine save from Barnes before Ally Conway fired just wide of the post from a good position.
Gent almost bagged his hattrick on 53 minutes but his header from a corner went just wide as Carlton struggled to keep possession.
Minutes later a Rowley clearance was blocked by Conway and only a superb Martin Ball tackle denied Cambridge an equaliser.
Carlton brought on Opoku to add to the threat up front and as the half wore on, the Millers regained some initiative.
A Blake corner was met by a Watson header which drew a fantastic save from Boness, before Watson then hit the outside of the post from a free kick with the goalkeeper beaten.
Cambridge responded and Ryan Swift did well to control a Seb Simpson pass, but his shot flew high over the bar.
The defence had to work extremely hard to limit the Cambridge chances and Ball was called upon to make another superb block as the Lillywhites attacked.
Howes saw a late corner hit the bar before Isaac Maynard put Cambridge’s final chance just wide of the post in added time.
As the final whistle went the players came across to thank the travelling support, knowing they had done all they can to keep the play-off dream alive for another game.
Carlton Town: S Rowley, L Gorman, D Fletcher, M Ball, D Brown, T Maddison (A Opoku 61), N Watson, K Sargent (J Holmes 14), T Blake, A O’Connor (R Tait 73), A Howes. Unused substitutes: T Moore, L Czerwak
Goals: O’Connor 29, Blake 30, 45+1; Jordan Gent 5, 37
Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM – Tyler Blake