A calamitous second half in the cold wind that swirled around a wintry Woodspring Stadium saw St Albans City plunge deep into a relegation battle as fellow strugglers Weston-super-Mare romped to a 4-1 triumph on the back of a Bradley Ash hat-trick on Saturday.
England Colleges striker Ash, 19, has three times scored twice in a game this season and his first treble in senior football has given Ryan Northmoreâ€™s side its best hope yet of climbing out the National League South bottom three.
The emergence of Ash as a goal scorer to fear is in stark contrast to the fortunes of the Saints whose pitiful return of just a dozen goals in 16 league games, including a meagre four in nine away games, is the form of a side drifting headlong towards disaster.
City, though, had begun the afternoon encouragingly with two good chances created early on and turning around goalless at half time was hardly an unfavourable position.
But then Weston, without a goal in their two previous matches, were a goal to the good within 20 second of the restart and had dramatically altered the course of events.
It was a blow from which City never recovered.
St Albans showed three changes from the starting XI that beat Weston in an FA Cup tie just one month ago, while the Seagulls made four chances.
City again opted to play leading scorer Louie Theophanous in a wide position on the left. Theophanous was still able to plunder his tenth goal of the season and joint-manager Jimmy Gray was happy to justify the thinking behind the line up when interviewed after the game.
With the wind to their backs for the opening 45 minutes City posed the early threat with Theophanous, following a cross from the right by Billy Gibson, shooting across Luke Purnellâ€™s goal from a tight angle and just wide of the far post.
A minute later Weston had wildly optimistic penalty appeals for a foul by James Comley on Tristan Plummer rejected; not that it stopped Seagulls manager Northmore from giving referee Anthony Coggins an ear-bashing for the next five minutes.
Ash gave notice of what was to come with an ambitious drive from 20 yards that arrowed towards the near post before being turned away by City keeper Joe Welch.
The attacking nature of the play continued with Cityâ€™s best move of the match seeing Comley, Sam Corcoran, Ben Martin and Lee Chappell all involved before a delightful touch by Theophanous set up Harry Crawford for a cushioned left-footed shot from 15 yards that went wide of the sprawling Purnell but also beyond the far post.
For two sides at the wrong end of the table the early changes were proving to be highly open.
Dayle Grubb flighted an excellent ball over the City defence Ben Withey latched onto and whipped towards the near post where Ash neatly directed a shot inside the near post only for Welch to block with his legs.
Cracks were starting to appear in the City defence. An excellent pass along the deck by Ollie Barnes found skipper Grubb whose low cross looked certain to be turned in Joe McClennan only for the diving Lee Chappell to block the shot at the cost of a corner.
The otherwise outstanding Comley got into a tangle midway through the half when the ball got stuck between his feet just outside the penalty area, but the Montserrat international recovered before the ever eager Ash could pounce.
Cityâ€™s presence as an attacking entity had long since faded and Welch was called into again just after the half to catch a cross-shot by Plummer that threatened to sneak inside the keeperâ€™s left hand upright.
Plummer caused more problems for City when darting in from the Seagulls left and running the ball onto McClennan who stretched to shoot but was well off target.
Crawford was spoken to by the referee on 35 minutes following a late challenge on Barnes. The duo exchanged a few unpleasantries during the game with City claiming that the Weston defender spat on Crawfordâ€™s neck.
Plummer continued to cause City problems with both Comley and Ben Martin conceding free kicks just outside the penalty following fouls on the diminutive though lively striker.
From the latter foul Alex Byrne placed a dangerous cross into the heart of the City penalty area where Welch made a fine save from Pat Kearyâ€™s header and was relieved to see the ball bounce through Barnesâ€™ legs as the central defender tried to scoop home the rebound.
St Albans somehow survived to the interval with their goal intact but within 20 seconds of the changing of ends they were kicking off again as Weston forged ahead.
An attempted clearance by Comley went up into the air and, on the wind, headed back into the City half for Ash to race clear of Martin and calmly slide the opening goal to Welchâ€™s left.
Given the experience in the City side they should have been able to hit back quickly against a relatively inexperienced Weston side, but in reality the Seagulls defended their lead with few scares.
Purnell safely gathered a cross by Theophanous and then dived to smother a low cross by Gibson before Crawford could step in, while substitute Jack Green â€“ on before half time for the disappointing Kevin Krans â€“ had a shot blocked from ten yards out.
City believed they had been on the wrong end of a poor decision on 53 minutes when Ash latched onto Witheyâ€™s through ball and clinically slotted it to Welchâ€™s right for his second goal.
A linesmanâ€™s raised flag looked to have come to Cityâ€™s rescue but Mr Coggins had been perfectly placed to see that Saints defender Ben Nunn had tackled Withey and inadvertently sent Ash clear, thus evading being caught offside.
On 68 minutes Weston scored a third goal in a league match for the first time since March when Ash completed his hat-trick in spectacular fashion.
With the wind behind him, Purnell launched a goal kick to within ten yards of the visitors penalty area.
Ash manoeuvred himself goal-side of Martin and with his first touch, with his right foot, he moved clear of the City defender and then, from 14 yards, cracked a controlled left-footed half-volley through the legs of Welch and into the goal.
City responded by taking Comley out of the back four and putting him into midfield, immediately St Albans had new energy in the middle of the park and put Weston under heavy pressure for the remainder of the game.
But it meant little in the context of the whole game, at three-down the outcome had already been decided.
Even so, City did gain some hope when Purnell palmed over a stinging drive by Comley on 71 minutes. It was the Saints first on-target effort of the afternoon and won them their first corner.
Comley took the corner himself and from it Green cleverly back-heeled the ball towards goal where Theophanous did likewise to notch his tenth goal in a City shirt.
Weston looked visibly rocked and vulnerable, and City applied pressure with Scott Thomas shooting over, Chappell having a shot saved and Nunn, in addition to firing just too high, had a goal-bound effort superbly touched over Purnell.
Weston successfully saw off Cityâ€™s belated challenge and in the fourth minute of added time scored for the fourth time.
Receiving a short pass from Nunn, City substitute Gus Sow tumbled to the ground as Scott Wilson â€“ fortunate not to have been booked following an earlier crude lunge at the City midfielder â€“ closed in.
Collecting the loose ball Wilson skipped past Martin as he surged into the penalty and claimed his fourth goal of the season with a shot that clipped the diving Welch and looped its way into the net.
With this victory Weston leapfrog City in the league table to now sit in 20th position with the Saints one place below them.
St Albans return to home soil on Tuesday night when they will look to extend an unbeaten record at the Park currently standing at six games, when sixth in the table Gosport Borough are the visitors.
Kick off at Clarence Park is at 7.45pm.