Kettering Town’s 21-match unbeaten run in the Calor League Division One Central was ended as they went down to a 3-1 defeat at fellow play-off contenders Barton Rovers.
Goals either side of half-time put the hosts in control and, although Andy Gooding pulled one back for the Poppies with his seventh goal in nine games, Barton added another to seal a crucial three points.
And Kettering’s misery was compounded late on when Tommy Hull saw red for a second bookable offence against the club he left to join the Poppies earlier in the season.
Dean Thomas made two changes to the side that was held to a 1-1 draw by Chalfont St Peter at Latimer Park on Saturday with Josh Moreman and Chris Logan coming in for Ash Fuller and Dubi Ogbonna who dropped to the bench.
Both sides started brightly but there were few chances at either end until Jonathon Thorpe shot over for the visitors.
An effort from Elliot Sandy rolled wide of the post but it was Barton who took the lead on the stroke of half-time when a mix-up between Gooding and Henry Eze allowed BJ Christie in to beat Alastair Worby.
And things got even worse for Kettering two minutes into the second half when Kyle Lincoln swung in a free-kick and Ricky Case reacted quickest to head home.
The Poppies needed a response and they got one when Thorpe crossed to the far post. Moreman fired towards goal, Kyle Forster parried it but Gooding was on hand to tuck home the rebound.
Sandy had a shot blocked as Kettering searched for an equaliser but Barton broke downfield and Keshi Anderson headed the ball across goal for Christie to bag his second.
Logan saw a shot come back off the inside of the post and into the grateful arms of Forster but another frustrating evening was capped by the late red card for Hull after he picked up his second yellow.
And so the long unbeaten run is over. The Poppies have dropped out of the play-off places as Barton moved three points clear of them with this result.
But that unbeaten streak has still given Kettering a chance, although they will need to get back on track when they head to Uxbridge on Saturday.
Poppies: Worby; Clifton, Eze, Hull, Kinniburgh; Thorpe (sub Hamilton, 69 mins), Gooding, Jepson (sub Ogbonna, 69 mins), Logan, Moreman; Sandy (sub Fuller, 76 mins). Subs not used: Crowie, Osei-Siribour.
Goals: Christie (45 mins, 1-0), Case (47 mins, 2-0), Gooding (54 mins, 2-1), Christie (60 mins, 3-1).