A moment of brilliance from Duncan Watmore proved to be the difference as Corby Town slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Blue Square Bet North play-off chasers Altrincham.
The Steelmen produced a vastly improved display at Moss Lane but they missed two great chances at a crucial time just before the break before Watmore scored what proved to be the superb winner.
Steelmen boss Chris Plummer resisted the temptation to throw new signing Michael Bryan, who joined from Daventry Town on Friday night, straight in from the start as he was handed a place on the bench alongside top scorer Josh Moreman.
That meant a first league start for Francis Green as Plummer surprisingly started with Sam Ives at right-back while Liam Richardson was also handed a place in the midfield.
Paul Walker was needed to hold an early long-range effort from Jake Moult before the Steelmen were forced into an early change when Green limped off and was replaced by Avelino Vieira.
From there, the hosts dominated and Walker saved well from Simon Richman before the hosts took the lead on the quarter-hour mark.
Shaun Densmore’s free-kick was flicked on and Walker could only push the ball out to the league’s leading scorer Damian Reeves who finished from close-range.
Walker saved well from Duncan Watmore soon after but, out of nowhere, the Steelmen levelled things up on 24 minutes.
Richardson sent the ball to the right of the penalty area where he found Semple. And the winger took a touch before beating Stuart Coburn at his near post with a well-struck shot.
That goal stunned the Robins but they were soon back on the front foot with Walker getting down well to stop Nicky Clee’s drive before Reeves shot over from a good position.
But it was the Steelmen who finished the half the stronger and only the woodwork prevented them from taking the lead.
First, Ives’ cross found Semple and his header was tipped onto the bar by Coburn and then Semple turned provider just two minutes later as his cross to the far post was headed against the upright by Jason Crowe.
They were chances that need to be taken when the opposition have players like Watmore in their armoury. And there was an element of predictability in it as the lively frontman picked the ball up just inside the Corby half and ran through with speed, evading a couple of challenges and then beating Walker with a shot into the corner.
It was harsh on Corby but a stark reminder of how crucial it is take your chances when they come about.
The Steelmen picked themselves up and started the second half brightly with Semple shooting over before Matt Doughty was forced to head away across his own goal after a good ball in from Paul Malone.
Tom McGowan scuffed a shot straight at Coburn after being played in by Semple while Clee sent an effort wide at the other end.
Corby enjoyed good spells of possession but at times their final ball was lacking and it was Walker who was kept busy at the other end as he pushed a Watmore shot away for a corner.
Plummer rolled the dice by throwing Moreman and Bryan on for the final 13 minutes as Corby went in search of an equaliser.
But, despite having plenty of possession, the Steelmen were unable to carve out a clear-cut chance while Walker prevented Watmore from grabbing a third as he punched away the striker’s 20-yard effort.
It was a battling effort from Plummer’s men but, in the end, they were left to count the cost of those first-half missed chances.
Altrincham: Coburn; Densmore, Hall, Havern, Doughty; Richman (sub Leather, 26 mins), Moult (sub Brooke, 85 mins), Rodgers, Clee (sub Lawrie, 65 mins); Watmore, Reeves. Subs not used: Mitchley, Bullen.
Steelmen: Walker; Ives, Malone, Piergianni, Crowe; Weddeburn, Richardson (sub Bryan, 77 mins); Semple, McGowan, Kaziboni (sub Moreman, 77 mins); Green (sub Vieira, 10 mins). Subs not used: Webb, Manga.
Referee: J Tyas.
Goals: Reeves (15 mins, 1-0), Semple (24 mins, 1-1), Watmore (45 mins, 2-1).
Bookings: Crowe (foul).