Harrogate Railway slipped to a 2-0 defeat at home to promotion chasers Curzon Ashton in an entertaining contest at Station View.
Two second half strikes stopped Billy Miller’s side extending their unbeaten Evo-Stick Division One stretch to four matches as they fell to 15th with 38 points from 33 games.
Railway goalkeeper Sam Dobbs was in imperious form throughout and it was his saves that kept the score at 0-0 into the half time break.
But ‘Rail’s resistance finally told halfway through the second period when Ashton striker Kristian Dennis slotted home the rebound after seeing his penalty saved.
The away side added a second with 10 minutes left on the clock as Railway struggled to get a firm foothold of the game.
Last year’s play-off finalists arrived at Station View having won only one of their last six games with ‘Rail full of confidence after victories Skelmersdale United, Garforth Town and a draw with Wakefield.
But it was the away side who started with the expected quality of promotion chasers. Within two minutes Dobbs had to punch a corner off his goalline before Ashton winger Matthew Purcell shot high and harmlessly wide.
Curzon striker Dennis then found space from another corner but again the shot sailed wide.
Miller’s men were second best for the early exchanges and left-back Colin Hunter was booked for a poor sliding tackle near the corner flag.
The league’s top scorer, Dennis continued to cause the ‘Rail defence problems but Dobbs provided a perfect foil between the sticks.
First the ‘keeper palmed a shot away from danger before he blocked another chance from six yards with his legs.
Railway weathered the early Curzon storm and created their own chance but Alex Hallam’s drive was too close to ‘keeper Joshua Ollerenshaw.
Miller’s side were once again lucky to keep the score at 0-0 on 27 minutes when Purcell struck the post and the rebound was scrambled away.
The sound of the woodwork, and the continuous referee’s whistle, seemed to wake the Railway players up after the half hour mark.
The impressive Hallam bustled down the left wing, disposing the right-back off the ball and sliding a pass into Joe McCann’s path, but the winger’s sweetly timed shot flew narrowly over the bar.
Minutes later, striker Liam Hardy should have scored but as he attempted an acrobatic finish a defender nipped in to clear.
Curzon threatened back but Dobbs continued to impress, a diving stop to deny Curzon centre-back Andrew Watson’s near post header his most remarkable save.
Miller will have been relieved to see his side level at the break. And his half-time words of encouragement looked to have paid off within two minutes of the restart.
But Hunter’s 20 yard curled free-kick was brilliantly tipped behind by the away team’s stopper as it looked destined for the top corner.
The number of chances stemmed for both sides in the second half but on 65 minutes the deadlock was eventually broken.
The referee awarded a spot kick to the visitors after a collision in the ‘Rail area, with little complaints from the home side.
Dennis’ penalty was saved onto the post by the diving Dobbs but the striker finally found a way past his nemesis from the rebound.
The lead was richly deserved for the Manchester-based side, who looked assured going forward and strong in defence.
Within a minute of conceding though, Railway nearly equalised but Jesus’ header went straight into Ollerenshaw’s hands.
The ‘keeper was less convincing when Hardy chased down a back pass, striking his clearance against the ‘Rail frontman. But as the ball fell free in the area the stopper won the footrace and scrambled on top of it.
Ashton struck for a second time with 10 minutes left. Purcell darted across the box to meet a cross from the left wing and his finish evaded Dobbs’ hand.
Hunter tested the Ashton again as Railway pressed for a consolation but his swerving drive from distance struck the outside of the upright.
In the dying moments of the match, ‘Rail’s Dan Thirkhill missed a glorious chance as his free header sailed into the stands.
His embarrassment, however, was spared as the linesman raised his flag for offside.
That was the final act of an enticing 90 minutes as Miller was left praising a side destined for another play-off tilt.
Elsewhere, Harrogate Town returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win at Corby Town.
Goals from Dominic Knowles and Adam Bolder were enough to see off their Northampton hosts.
10-man Knaresborough Town were defeated 3-1 at home to Pontefract Collieries in the NCEL Division One.
Steve Bromley pulled his side back into contention before half time after Town fell 2-0 down. But Pontefract struck a third late on after Liam Gray had been red carded.
In the NCEL Premier winger Kyle Hawthorne struck a late equaliser for Tadcaster Albion as they drew 1-1 at Thackley.