After the interval Haywards Heath looked far more energetic, moving the ball with urgency as they looked to play off substitute striker Melford Simpson, and they worked themselves back into the tie in the 53rd minute through Saunders, who was in the right place at the right time inside the box to control and finish past a sprawling James to hand the Blues a lifeline.
A fantastic last-ditch tackle on the hour mark from Sean Roddy kept Heath in the match after Smith-Joseph had rounded the keeper, and they nearly capitalised on an erratic goalmouth scramble to draw level with twenty minutes remaining, but nobody in a blue and white shirt could find the elusive touch.
The winter mist engulfed the pitch in the closing stages, forcing the referee to halt play; however, the fog lifted shortly afterwards, allowing the game to continue.
But there were no last-gasp heroics for Haywards Heath, who will feel that they could have won it on a different day.
Burgess Hill manager Simon Wormull was delighted with the result, citing his side’s defensive strength as a deciding factor.
“I think if we show that kind of resilience for the rest of the season then hopefully we will pick up the points that we need,” he said.
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
Stats: (Haywards Heath-Burgess Hill)
Goals: 1-2; Shots: 10-7; Shots-on-target: 5-5; Corners: 5-3; Fouls: 4-12; Yellow cards: 2-0; Red cards: 0-0.
Haywards Heath Town: Heyburn, Roddy, Weston, Louis, Cooper ©, Spinks, Saunders, Akehurst, Dalhouse, Napper, Laing.
Subs: McCreadie, Simpson, Finney, Rowe, Gray-Branford.
Burgess Hill Town: James, Bennett, Cadman, Wilson, Toure, Richmond, Appau, Enver, Harding, Beck ©, Smith-Joseph,
Subs: Choules, Sargent, Tuck, Short, Ryder.
Match report by Archie Griggs