The season opened with a 1–0 defeat to Exeter City at St James Park. Vale continued on indifferent form, and on 17 September played out a goalless draw with Aldershot at the Recreation Ground's lowest recorded Football League attendance of 1,027. At the end of the month Vale went nine league games without a loss to fire the club into the promotion race, their run including three 4–0 wins in Burslem as they went clear at the top of the table. With John Williams sidelined with an ankle injury, Vale's form suffered with just two wins in the following eleven games, and Vale fell to fifth place. From 11 January to 26 April the "Valiants" hit a run of eighteen league games unbeaten (eight draws and ten wins), thus ensuring promotion. This run was built on the striking partnership of Robbie Earle and Andy Jones, as well as a solid defence and consistent displays from keeper Arnold. During this spell Rudge failed to re-sign Bob Newton from Chesterfield, though was cheered by completing the double over Dario Gradi's Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road. One low point was an attack by a Stockport gang on Russell Bromage following a 2–1 win over Stockport County at Edgeley Park. Promotion was ensured with a 1–0 win over bottom club Torquay United at Plainmoor, in which the majority of the crowd were Vale fans. However, with two defeats and a draw in their final three games, Rudge accused his players of lacking professionalism as they lost the chance to head into the Third Division as runners-up.
They finished in fourth place with 79 points, seven points clear of Orient.Preston North End were the only team to beat Vale on their own ground in the league all season. Their 37 goals conceded was the lowest total in the division and a record excelled only by Manchester United in the First Division. Their 67 goals scored tally was not particularly impressive, though Earle and Jones' partnership provided almost half of these goals.Phil Sproson was selected for the PFAFourth DivisionTeam of the Year.
In the League Trophy, Vale advanced through the group stage with a 1–1 draw with Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground and a 2–0 home win over Blackpool. The next stage saw Vale triumph over Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park with a 4–3 win on penalties following a 1–1 draw. In the Area Semi-Finals they were then defeated by holders Wigan Athletic, though still earned £1,250 in prize money.