AFC Mansfield were dealt a crushing blow to their promotion hopes after falling to a 3-0 defeat at home against champions-elect Pontefract Collieries.
The affair began with a surprising lack of urgency from both sides, with Connor Smythe firing into the ankles of Jimmy Williams, before Spencer Clarke then nodded a half-chance straight over the bar.
Pontefract began to find their feet and in due course they took the lead. On the half an hour mark, Micky Dunn met an in-swinging corner at the back-post to break the deadlock in Mansfield.
Rudy Funk’s side posed little threat, falling victim to two more goals after the interval.
Aaron Moxam bagged the visitor’s second of the evening. A well-timed run saw him connect with Dunn’s low cross from the left-flank straight from the restart.
Eli Hey then wrapped up proceedings on 57 minutes with a curling effort into Jason White’s far-post.
AFC looked for a way back into the game; however, it was not to be as they surrendered top spot in the NCEL Premier Division table to their opponents.
Pontefract have four games remaining, while AFC have just the one, leaving it almost impossible for the latter to claim the illusive title.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s result also means that third-placed Pickering Town must drop a minimum of four points if Funk’s side are to secure second place – moving them into the realms of the Evo-Stik.
All attention will now be shifted towards their game against Athersley Recreation at the Forest Town Arena, where they will be hoping to give themselves the best chance of promotion by emerging victorious.