Burton Albion boss Gary Rowett saluted match-winner Lucas Akins as the Brewers won on the opening day of the season for the first time as a Football League club.
Summer signing Akins showed strong determination to turn in Stuart Beavon's cross in the 42nd minute after Beavon had darted past two defenders on the left.
And with Burton then defending well in the second half, there was no way through for Oxford United, who slipped to defeat in new manager Michael Appleton's first game in charge.
Rowett had praise for both Beavon and 25-year-old Akins, who signed from Stevenage, and who scored twice in pre-season games.
He said: "You very rarely see Lucas stuck out on the wing when play is on the other side, he comes in as a second striker.
"He is a real goalscoring threat. It's good to see him get that first goal of the league campaign, and he's deserved it with his pre-season form.
"For some reason we have always struggled in our first game of the season. This was our first opening-day win in six attempts.
"Defensively we were excellent again and we counter-attacked really well and we should have made more of it at times. We just possibly lacked a bit of quality with that final ball or final shot.
"It took us a while to get to grips with their shape. We needed to play with a bit more aggression and I think we did that after about 25 minutes.
"There were some very good performances out there and we can get better.
"We defended resolutely. I have to say that Oxford is one of our favourite places to come after last season's performance and win, and that gave us a bit of confidence coming here."
Oxford manager Michael Appleton, who took over from Gary Waddock a month ago, was regretting not taking off centre-half Michael Raynes earlier than he did when Raynes suffered a neck injury in landing following a header.
Beavon darted past Raynes with ease on his way to setting up Akins' matchwinner, and Raynes looked as though he was still groggy and suffering from concussion.
Appleton did substitute Raynes a few minutes after the goal.
He said: "It was a sloppy goal to concede because we were in control. Raynes taking a blow to the head possibly did have an impact on the goal, but he's a centre half and he wanted to play.
"Possibly if he'd had a fresher mind and clearer head he'd have been different, but there were certain other players who could also have done better in the build-up to the goal."
Appleton, who had given debuts to his five new signings, added: "It was a bit frustrating. Burton defended very well but I want players to be a bit braver around the box and to take a few more chances.
"We're going to have to get used to this - teams who have two banks of four and make it very difficult for us to break them down.
"We're going to have to unlock a few more doors in the weeks ahead.
"It's not about one game, and there are 45 more games to go."
Oxford's attempts on goal petered out in the second half as Burton controlled the game, but before the break they went close.
Alfie Potter forced two saves from Albion keeper Jon McLaughlin, and Josh Ruffels saw his fierce drive parried.