Leamington Royals’ Midland Premier League play-off hopes suffered a massive setback with a 28-22 defeat at Buxton Bulls.
The defeat leaves Royals one place outside the play-off positions and realistically needing to win their last three games - one of which is against table-topping Coventry - to extend their season.
Buxton have had mixed fortunes in their first season in the league, but boasted a strong home record.
However, Royals were immediately on the offensive and scored two tries inside the first 15 minutes.
Simon Gardner dotted down after finding a gap at the ruck and Andy Morrison smashed his way through on a trademark run, with both tries converted by Tom Hyam.
The tide of the game was to quickly turn after a Leamington error in midfield.
A dropped ball was fly-hacked downfield by a Buxton player and Adam Clifford cynically tackled a player off the ball to receive a yellow card.
The home side used their extra man to their advantage, scoring an unconverted try in the corner.
Royals were then left frustrated by a number of controversial calls from the local referee.
Gardner thought he had gone over for his second try but was called back for a crossing incident that only the official saw. Then prop Ben Nuttall was penalised for continuing to play after a tackle despite not being held by an opposition player or the referee having called the tackle.
As a result of the second infringement and following repeat sets, Buxton’s influential half-back picked out a forward to cross next to the posts.
Leamington still held a 12-10 advantage at the interval but plays were being forced and players were starting to niggle at the referee, which resulted in quickfire penalties against the away side.
Buxton sensed a scalp and were playing the better, more aggressive, controlled rugby.
This resulted in two quickfire converted tries after the break, with the hosts utilising their powerful runners against a Royals side which was beginning to wilt in the heat of the afternoon.
Once the second try went over, Leamington composed themselves and after a good repeat set, Gardner scooted over for his second of the game.
Not to be outdone, Morrison then crashed over for his second in a carbon copy of the first try, with Hyam converting to bring the sides level.
But buoyed on by a partisan crowd, Buxton were going to have the last say in the match after yet more ill discipline from Leamington.
And, after a good move, their hooker sent their loose forward over for a converted try.