Knaresborough Town suffered a 4-0 defeat at home to Bottesford Town in a game of fine margins at Manse Lane.
Boro’ went into the match high on confidence but came up against a determined Bottesford side who were without a win in their last three.
Wayne Graves’ hat-trick did the damage for the fourth-placed visitors as Knaresborough dropped to tenth in Northern Counties East League Division One.
The first chance of the match fell to away side but a shot from outside the box following a corner was blazed over.
Town then had a great chance as Gary Collier cut in from the left hand-side and tried to bend a right footed strike into the far corner but Bottesford keeper Leigh Herrick was equal to it, tipping wide.
Bottesford had a free kick drilled narrowly wide of the far hand post before they made their possession count in the 17th minute.
A shot from outside the box deflected off Wayne Graves and left the Jack Rushworth in goal with not enough time to react and nestled into the net.
The next 15 minutes saw Town get more of the ball but the Bottesford centre halves stood firm and rarely allowed Knaresborough’s strikers chance to turn and run at goal.
And the visitors’ second goal came just after half an hour.
One of the of the Bottesford players made a surge into the box looking ready to curl a shot into the far corner only to roll the ball behind him for Graves to drill a left footed shot low into the far corner.
It was a well worked goal and seemed to take Town by surprise as the only other chance of the half fell to Bottesford again. This time a fast counter-attack saw a low shot sneak just wide of the post.
On the stroke of half time Town received a boost as Bottesford captain Lee Ridley went off with an injury and was replaced by his namesake Steve.
Bottesford had a shout for a penalty early in the second half and the free kick was played low into the box for the striker to turn and go down under a challenge.
There was a big shout from the visiting players but referee James Fox waved away the appeals.
The game went scrappy for a while after with strong challenges flying in from either side, Jim Bradley receiving a yellow card for Knaresborough.
Then a big moment for Town to get back into the game as Graham Whitehead managed to draw a fine low save from Herrick with a Bottesford defender on hand to put the rebound out for a corner.
The corner came in and, in a sea of bodies, a Town player managed to head wide of the right hand post when he should have shot on target.
At this point Town were on top with boss Paul Stansfield barking at his players to make the pressure count.
Substitutions together with re-shuffle of players and formations slowed the game down as Town brought on Joel Freeston up front in a effort to bring pace to the attack.
Freeston had a chance later in the half as he chest down and fired wide from the edge of the area.
With only 10 minutes to go, frustration began to se in for Town with captain Will Lenehan getting booked for dissent when he believed he should have been awarded a foul.
The killer blow was struck in the 86th minute as good footwork from Danny Gibbons on the right saw him work a yard of space to cross into the Town box.
The ball was missed by Danny Boulton but fell kindly to Graves to cap off his hat-trick, Rushworth’s hand not strong enough to keep the effort out.
Freeston had a chance to run in behind late on but a fine challenge saw possession overturned and a long ball up-field found Craig Bridge.
He had plenty of time and space to pick his spot in the and drilled a low shot into the bottom left corner from the centre of goal.
This proved the nail in the coffin for Town and consigned them to their first loss in the league since early September. The result leaves Knaresborough in tenth place on 27 points.
Knaresborough travel to struggling Worsbrough Bridge Athletic this weekend, a side who sit 19th without a home win this season.
Town will be looking to continue their six away match unbeaten run to put their play-off challenge back on track.
After the match Knaresborough boss Paul Stansfield said: “It was hard to see how the game ended 4-0.
“There wasn’t much between the teams and although they scored four goals our keeper hasn’t really had a save to make whereas their keeper has made a few.
“If we score that chance we have all the momentum but they were clever and slowed the game down, something the ref allowed them to do.
“They are a good side and were better on the night but even some of their players told our lads after the game it wasn’t a four nil match.
“We’re not panicking with the loss just as we wouldn’t get carried away with a win so it’s simply a matter of reacting positively on the weekend.
“We are disappointed with the result but the lads know the scoreline flattered them slightly.
“If you had offered us to be in this position two months ago I would have bitten your hand off.”