Vale did dominate for a large proportion of the game but the absence of Tom Conlon and with Dennis Politic having returned to his parent club, it came to show as they lacked creativity and a spark in the final third.
The result sees the Valiants remain in ninth, three points adrift of the play-off places while a vital three points on the road for Salford sees them rise three places to 10th- only a point behind tonight' opponents.
Story of the game
Despite Salford, who made four changes from their loss at the weekend at Bradford, making the brighter start, it was Vale that had the first real opportunity of the evening on 11 minutes.
New signing Chris Hussey was slipped in down the left by Connor Hall and he whipped an inviting cross onto the head of Huddersfield Town loanee Kian Harratt, but he couldn't get a clean connection on the ball as it flashed away to safety.
Only three minutes later though, the Ammies created an opening of their own when Watson, who was making his second appearance since joining from Tranmere Rovers, did well to work himself some room on the edge of the box, but his powerful effort arrowed narrowly over the crossbar.
With the hosts starting to settle into the game, they accumulated their first shot on target on the 25th-minute mark when David Worrall's cross from the right was latched on to by Hussey, but his header was straight at Tom King.
Only moments later, the home side created the best opportunity of the game so far and it was only for a wonderful block by Jordan Turnbull that the scores were still level.
King punched away a James Gibbons cross from the right only as far as Ben Garrity, but his drive was well blocked off the line by the recovering Turnbull.
Unfortunately for the Valiants, in the 43rd minute, they suffered a blow as Hall in his only his second game for the club was forced off with an injury.
This was following a collision with the post that lead to ten minutes of first-half stoppage time as there was a break in play due to the damage on the post having to be fixed.
Four minutes into this additional time, Brad Walker, who had come in for injured captain Conlon, lashed an effort from range that landed just wide of the right-hand post.
Then with almost the last kick of the half, Garrity will have felt he should have broken the deadlock when he got on the end of a loose ball inside the area, but his low goalbound shot was again blocked away to safety.
After the break, after Bowyer made a double change and switched his system from a 5-3-2 to a 4-2-3-1, Salford came out rejuvenated and with much more positivity as they took the lead inside 50 minutes.
A ball from the edge of the box from Watson found Elliott free inside the area and from point-blank range, he poked the ball past Aidan Stone and into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the campaign.
After the opener, despite dominating possession the home side really struggled to get into many dangerous positions and create really anything of note, with their best opportunity in the following half an hour falling to former Ammie James Wilson.
This was when a Worrall flick-on found Vale's joint-top goalscorer inside the area, but he failed to get enough on to the ball as it rolled into the grateful arms of King.
Ultimately, in the final third Darrell Clarke's men just didn't create enough as the visitors sturdy and solid defensive showing saw a huge three points over the line.
Lack of service sees Vale pay the price
Even though the Valiants obtained most of the ball, they very rarely tested King in goal especially after Elliott netted the eventual winner.
From wide positions in the second half, the final ball proved to not be good enough as the hosts didn’t win many of the aerial balls in the penalty area.
Then in the midfield areas, when in possession the hosts were quite flat with them having a lack of attempts in trying to slip the wingers and two strikers in behind the Ammies backline.
Due to this it is clear that Vale missed the likes of Conlon who has been the heart of the team’s creativity in midfield over the last two seasons, with him bagging three goals and five assists so far this campaign.
Politic had been recalled from his loan spell by Bolton Wanderers, he was someone that would have added a more creative force this evening.
With the 21-year-old no longer being at the club, he is a player that Clarke must be considering finding a replacement for with just under two weeks of the transfer window remaining.
In the middle of December, the Valiants were positioned in the automatic promotion spots, but just over a month down the line they have dropped down to ninth, three points adrift of the play-off places even though they do have games in hand on all of the teams above them.
However, if Vale continue to be flat in possession and keep struggling to create consistent openings, their hopes of achieving at least a place in the play-offs won’t be achieved.
That is why it is integral that they try to recruit a creative outlet before the window shuts on January 31.
Star man- Jordan Turnbull
Despite Vale's lack of creativity, credit must be given to the Ammies for their defensive performance as for the entirety of the game they were organised and always showed to be brave and put their body on the line when put to the test.
Although, at the centre of this was Turnbull who did really well to nullify the threats of young strikers Harratt and Ryan Edmondson, especially when balls came in from wide areas as he won six aerial duels.
He was also brave when shots came in from the home side with the 27-year-old making three blocks from shots goalwards and there is no doubt that it was excellent defensive showing that was integral to Salford securing their 11th league clean sheet of the season.
The centre back who joined the club from Northampton back in the summer of 2020 has so far played 27 games in all competitions this season, scoring four times and accumulating three assists.