The Wildcats kept up their fine form of recent weeks by grinding out a result against a strong Oxford side.
Beth Hepple’s first half penalty was followed up by a Jordan Atkinson strike before the break which saw Durham lead at the break.
Ella Franklin-Fraiture bundled one in for the U’s in the second half but the hosts stayed strong to secure three points.
Lee Sanders made two changes to the side that drew at Everton as Jen Jennings and Rachel Lee came into the starting line-up.
Chances were at a premium in the early stages – Nat Gutteridge having the first sight of goal but her header was straight at Oxford stopper Demi Lambourne.
Durham grew into the game and began to create chances.
Hepple poked over after Sarah McFadden found her in the area before Atkinson saw a first-time effort well-saved by Lambourne.
Atkinson was proving a menace and it was the winger who would win the penalty as she was hauled down in the box.
It was then down to Hepple to do the honours as she slotted the spot kick into the bottom corner.
This began a spell of Durham pressure which saw Emily Roberts divert a corner onto the bar before McFadden nodded narrowly wide from Atkinson’s cross.
Oxford were still a threat, though, and Ini Umotong dragged a shot just wide of the far post after she had broken through.
A second was to come, however, and the lively Atkinson was to provide it as she slid in after McFadden had seen her shot saved.
There was to be a golden opportunity for the visitors to claw one back before half-time but Franklin-Fraiture saw her effort blocked on the line by Becky Salicki.
The second half saw far fewer chances as both teams battled it out in midfield sensing that the next goal was crucial.
And it was Oxford who grabbed it – Franklin-Fraiture seizing on a lapse in concentration at the back to knock the ball home.
This gave Oxford hope and they threw players forward in search of a leveller, but they struggled to breach a strong Durham backline.
It looked as if Durham had grabbed a third just before full-time, but Nat Gutteridge prodded wide after Roberts had found her in the area.
The Wildcats saw out some late pressure to wrap up a vital three points, keeping them in touch with the top three.
Durham: Alderson; Jennings, Wilson, Salicki, Christon; Lee, Gutteridge (Eadon), Hepple; Roberts (Dodds), McFadden, Atkinson (Macek)
Subs Not Used: Darkoah, Gibson