Cheltenham Town’s survival hopes were dealt another blow with this defeat by York City at Bootham Crescent this afternoon.
The Robins desperately needed to win here, on a ground they’d never tasted defeat, but new boss Gary Johnson couldn’t produce the formula to make the long journey home with the points they coveted.
His side had given a good account of themselves before the break and had created a handful of chances to grab an important lead.
But York started the second period better and they’d hit the post, had a goal disallowed and saw one cleared off the line before finally making the breakthrough 17 minutes from time when Dave Winfield headed home from close range.
Johnson now has the Easter weekend to hatch a plan to derail Stevenage’s play-off ambitions on Monday at Whaddon Road (3pm kick-off).
It was 16 years to the day since Steve Cotterill’s side so famously left it late to defeat Rushden & Diamonds at Nene Park, to take a giant stride towards promotion to the Football League.
Now it really is time to deliver, if the Robins are to defy the odds and preserve their place in football's elite.
Johnson made four changes in total to the side defeated by Plymouth Argyle at Whaddon Road.
Back came Will Packwood and Wes Burns from international duty, and captain-for-the-day Troy Brown from suspension.
Shaquille McDonald made his first start for the club, at the expense of Mathieu Manset, and Jordan Wynter came in on the right.
That meant Matt Taylor, Joe Hanks and Jack Deaman dropped to the bench, while Matt Sparrow missed out. The new manager could only use five of the loanees currently at the club and it was the former Scunthorpe United and Crawley Town man that sat this one out.
Johnson sent out his new side in a new 4-2-3-1 formation, designed to attack.
Burns was deployed up front, with Shaun Harrad supporting the Bristol City man from midfield. He was flanked by Wynter and McDonald in the side areas.
There were some familiar faces in the York City side with Russ Penn, Luke Summerfield and Keith Lowe all starting for Russ Wilcox’s side, and they all made important contributions to the win that just about preserves their side’s League Two status for another season.
It was an entertaining and well-contested first half, with chances arriving at both ends.
York made the better start, and went close with 11 minutes on the clock when Bradley Halliday looped a ball into the box and Jake Hyde headed narrowly wide. The striker missed the target a few moments later with an an angled effort on the turn.
Burns was a whisker away from giving Cheltenham a 15th minute lead, arrowing one inches over from 30 yards.
Five minutes later a neat touch by Harrad opened up a chance for McDonald, who cut inside his marker on the left and shot low but goalkeeper Michael Ingram was equal to it.
Harrad went close himself, meeting a pinpoint delivery by Braham-Barrett with a downward header but Ingham cleared with his legs.
At the other end, Summerfield missed the target with a 25-yard free-kick and Hyde called Carson into a fingertip save from the edge of the box. Then Coulthirst curled one a foot wide after a slick passage of play by the home side.
There were late chances for Wes Burns, who saw a header easily saved, and Summerfield who planted a 20-yarder over the angle of the goal.
Coulson shaved the upright with a devilish free-kick in the opening moments of the second half, with York having the better the game after the restart.
Pablo Mills went into the book for a careless challenge on Summerfield, who fired over in the 55th minute from distance.
Cheltenham had won a series or corners around the hour mark, but were unable to force the York number one into a meaningful save.
The last one, sent over by Richards, was eventually met by McDonald 12 yards from goal but the diminutive front man lifted his effort well over the bar.
There was a lucky escape midway through the second half when Stephane Zubar bundled home a well worked free-kick from close range, but the assistant referee flagged for offside. It was a let off because Bradley Halliday’s original header looked destined for the net, and the decision kept Cheltenham in the game.
Next Richards was called on to clear off line to deny Zubar again, but then came the killer blow.
York forced a corner, sent in by Summerfield from the right and Winfield arrived to power home a header from close-range after Carson had lost his footing.
Johnson immediately sent on Manset (for Harrad) and Danny Haynes (McDonald) and immediately fashioned a good opportunity after Vaughan had been fouled down the right.
Richards delivered the free-kick, but Manset’s glancing header travelled wide.
It was a frenetic finale, and Carson kept his side in it with a fine save, down to his left, to prevent Couthirst sealing the win.
Then at the other end Haynes fired one into the side netting, to temporarily silence the home support.
York defended deeply in the closing stages, inviting the Robins to attack but the despite huffing and puffing, the Robins couldn't convert their late possession into a late leveller.
YORK CITY (3-5-2): Ingham; Lowe, Winfield, McCombe (Zubar 46); Halliday, Summerfield, Platt (Miller 69), Penn (c), Coulsen; Coulthirst (O’Hanlon 90), Hyde. Subs not used: Mooney, McCoy, Ilesanmi, Montrose.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-2-3-1): Carson; Vaughan, Packwood, Brown (c), Braham-Barrett; Mills (Hanks 69), Richards; Wynter, Harrad (Manset 74), McDonald (Haynes 74); Burns. Subs not used: Taylor, Gould (Gk), Deaman, Berry.
REFEREE: K Wright
ATTENDANCE: 4,151 (250 from Cheltenham)