After giving an insipid display when crashing to defeat at the weekend, St Albans City gave a much improved performance on Tuesday, but once Gosport Borough had weathered early pressure and grabbed a controversial lead there was only going to be one winner at a sparely populated Clarence Park.
Gosportâ€™s 3-1 victory â€“ a second away success in four days for Alex Pikeâ€™s side â€“ has moved the Hampshire outfit into the National League South promotion play-off positions and left City floundering with the dead wood at the opposite end of the table.
With 25 league games to go it is far too early to dismiss the Saints as nothing more than relegation fodder but the chronic shortage of goals and goal scorers in this current City side could prove to be their undoing over the coming months.
An increasingly leaky defence and a midfield that seldom dominates is hardly a recipe for success either.
St Albans joint-manager Jimmy Gray made four changes from the side defeated at Weston-super-Mare and was rewarded with a wave of attacks on the Gosport goal, as the visitors, after arriving late due to traffic problems, made a slow start.
But with some outstanding defending Boro ensured that their debut-making â€˜keeper Jordan Seabright had few serious threats to contend with.
City desperately needed a goal during the early bombardment, when one was not forthcoming an air of foreboding engulfed the terraces, while Gosport sensed that patience would be rewarded with their second win in three visits to the Park.
Jernade Meade, making his first starting appearance for the home side as one of the quartet of players brought into the side, was the first to have a shot blocked as City pressed towards the Hatfield Road goal.
City sought to get the ball wide to Meade on the left frequently early on but the one-time Arsenal player failed to match the promise of his two recent substitute appearances.
Graeme Montgomery, on the opposite flank, received a recall, but he, too, drifted in and out of the game.
But Montgomery, along with Harry Crawford and Louie Theophanous, had an effort saved by the former Torquay, Dagenham and Poole Town keeper Seabright before Gosport began to impose themselves on the game.
A reluctance to shoot when several players were nicely placed around the edge of the penalty area saw one chance go begging for the visitors, but they were more positive moments later when a good moved ended with Joe Welch pushing away an Andy Robinson shot with Justin Bennett sliding in to the stab the loose ball into the side-netting.
Going into the game Bennett had scored 20 times this season, it is a figure that equals the total of the entire City squad so far this campaign.
And Bennett would have added goal no.21 to his list had Welch not made a flying save to his left to keep out the prolific frontmanâ€™s well-placed header.
Bennett then sent a shot from distance wide of the target before Cityâ€™s leading marksman, ten-goal striker Theophanous, had a shot from 25 yards gathered comfortably.
City had one narrow escape when the experienced Rowan Vine was caught just offside but on 34 minutes there was to be no second reprieve as Gosport took the lead.
Vine did well to keep in play a long clearance by Brett Poate and when the ball was played in from the left Robinson cut City open with a low through ball that George Barker took in his stride and despatched clinically past the advancing Welch.
City complained vociferously that Barker was offside, but video footage suggests that Darren Locke, by a hairsbreadth, may have kept him onside.
To their credit, St Albans made a determined effort to get back on level terms before the interval.
Crawford had a goal-bound shot blocked by Poate before Seabright came into the spotlight.
The keeper was fortunate not to be penalised for handling when appearing to be outside of his penalty area but shrugged of that furore to make an excellent save low to his right to deny Theophanous following good work by Locke and then Crawford.
As the interval drew near Meade had two decent opportunities to test Seabright but neither effort went remotely close to the goal.
The quality of some of Cityâ€™s passing during the opening 45 minutes could be questioned but their effort was good and it continued throughout the second half, even as the game drifted away from them.
St Albans almost received the kind break they had been praying for when a long kick by Welch was sliced only just wide of the Gosport goal by visiting defender Ryan Woodford.
Gosport hit back with a good move that saw Robinsonâ€™s cross from the right held up and then eased on by Vine to Barker who shot, wastefully, across the face of Welchâ€™s goal.
Theophanous was out of luck when his long shot on the hour deflected off the head of Poate and ballooned over the goal.
From the resulting corner Gosport counter-attacked patiently with Terry Cuthbertson clipping the ball up to the free Vine ten yards inside the Boro half.
Vine switched the play to send Barker scurrying towards the City penalty area.
Barker cushioned a pass inside to Tom Dunford whose right-footed shot from 23 yards clipped James Comley as the midfielder slid in to block the shot.
To Comleyâ€™s dismay the ball looped over Welch and struck the underside of the crossbar before bouncing up into the roof of the net.
Given Cityâ€™s deficiencies in front of goal the game could have been perceived to have been all over but they came close to making a quick response when a Comley corner was headed into the goalmouth by Martin where Crawford, with his back to goal, scooped the ball over the bar.
Ten minutes from time the result was put beyond doubt when Barkerâ€™s corner from the Gosport right sailed over Martin and was headed in by the unchallenged Woodford from seven yards out.
City quickly lost possession from the kick off and Gosport launched another attack with Rory Williams sending Bennett away down the left.
Bennett arrowed the ball towards the near post where Martin did just enough to make Vine miss his kick when a fourth goal looked to be odds on.
The closing minutes saw the Saints strive to reduce the deficit.
Seabright did well to cling on to a blistering drive by Nunn and the 21-year-old keeper also made an excellent save to keep out a powerful effort from Theophanous with Williams doing well to clear the loose ball from virtually on the goalline, as Jack Green dived in hoping to score a consolation.
City immediately regained possession and worked the ball across the penalty area via Kevin Krans, Green and Gus Sow to Comley whose shot struck the outside of the woodwork.
Gosportâ€™s desire to keep a clean sheet was finally ended in the 90th minute when the ball ricocheted around their penalty area before Sow fed Comley and from his precise pass inside Krans had the space, from 18 yards, to fire past Seabright with the aid of a generous deflection off the diving Boro skipper Poate.
There was still time for Lee Wort to cause City more woe but the Gosport substitute had his low shot blocked by the legs of Welch for a corner.
The attendance was the smallest for a league game at Clarence Park since Gosport won 6-1 in a Southern League match in February 2013.