North Notts were hammed 7-3 by second-placed Barton at Manor Park in what was a bruising encounter for the home side.
With William and Allen Butler both passing late fitness tests Notts were buoyant going into the game and more than confident of causing an upset.
The early exchanges were tight until first blood was drawn by Barton who won a short corner five minutes in, which they were unable to convert due to some stout defending from Clay.
On 11 minutes Barton did take the lead through a petulantly proceeded short corner from Notts the Barton forward flicking the ball home.
Three minutes later Notts again broke into the “D” but were unable to get a shot off after good work from Barton and Butler.
Unfortunately for Notts the predictable fast Barton break lead to a second goal on 18 minutes.
Notts again were looking dangerous on the break with William Butler firing a reverse strike over the bar on 25 minutes.
Notts failure to convert was again punished a minute later when a slick short corner move found the ball back to the injector who slotted home past the shell shocked defence.
It seemed Notts’ day would get even worse when a Barton forward was fouled when shooting and the umpire awarded a penalty stroke.
Notts keeper and skipper Unwin was in no mood to lie down and pulled off a stunning save to keep the score at 3-0.
Notts started thesecond half with an early flurry and Allen Butler slotted home from a short corner. to make it 3-1.
On 45 minutes Notts again were caught on the break and an initial save from Unwin was converted to leave Notts chasing the game at 4-1.
Again Notts head never dropped and they continued to press hard until on 58 minutes Matthew Cooper was dismissed for dissent.
Smelling blood Barton turned up the heat and finished off Notts with nine minutes of attacking hockey leaving Notts 7-1 down with five minutes to go.
Credit to Notts that they were able to keep their heads and add two further goals through Nathan Smith and Marc Johnson to leave the score 7-3.
Notts manager Jay Faulkner added “We knew Barton would be a very good team. They play with a very different attitude to us and are a lot more driven towards a win at all cost attitude which made the game very petulant.
“That said they have beaten us four times in two seasons so well done to them and hopefully they will go up into the Premier League for a season next year.
“We will keep re-building and enjoying our hockey till the last whistle of the season. It certainly wont get any easier as next week we face top of the table Hampton in Arden away”.