Burton were beaten by Fleetwood Town in the League Two play-off final last season, but those memories will have been banished by what has been a superb campaign for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's side, who are now unbeaten in their last 10 league outings.
An eventful afternoon at the Globe Arena began with the leaders winning a penalty after Stuart Beavon was brought down by Laurence Wilson, but Damien McCrory's effort from the spot was denied by goalkeeper Andreas Arestidou.
It was the second time in a week that McCrory had missed a penalty, but that disappointment lasted just three minutes, as Akins slotted home, before doubling the lead with another penalty on the hour.
Mark Hughes responded for the hosts with a late equaliser to set up a nervy finish, but Burton stood firm.
Hasselbaink's side can still be caught by fourth-placed Bury, who beat Portsmouth 1-0 and are nine points adrift with three games remaining, but a seven-point lead over third-placed Wycombe with two matches left means Burton are guaranteed a place in League One next season.
Wycombe saw their own automatic promotion bid falter with a drab 0-0 draw at AFC Wimbledon, while a 90th-minute strike from Michael Timlin sealed a 1-0 win for Southend at fellow play-off chasers Exeter.
Second-placed Shrewsbury Town stay within two points of the league's summit, with a powerful Mark Ellis header securing a 1-0 win at home to York City.
Elsewhere at the top, Stevenage missed an opportunity to cement a place in the play-offs, twice having to come from behind to earn an entertaining 2-2 draw at 10-man Accrington Stanley, who had Nicky Hunt sent off, while seventh-placed Plymouth Argyle suffered a setback at the hands of Carlisle, who preserved their Football League status with a 2-0 win.
John Sheridan's Plymouth now sit level on points with eighth-placed Luton Town, who recorded a comfortable 3-0 win at home to 22nd-placed Hartlepool United, on a day where none of the bottom three teams could claim a win.
Cheltenham Town slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Northampton Town, a result that keeps the hosts in with a slim chance of reaching the play-offs, while bottom club Tranmere were beaten 3-0 at home to Oxford United.
In the day's other games, Cambridge United retained their league status for another season with a 3-1 victory over Mansfield, while five goals in 12 minutes saw Dagenham and Redbridge dent Newport County's play-off ambitions with a dramatic 3-2 win at Rodney Parade.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.