HASTINGS United suffered their first defeat on a Saturday since late January when they went down 2-1 away to Ryman Premier champions-elect Sutton United.
The loss meant the U’s dropped down a place to 18th as Horsham won 3-0 away to Hendon - who visit The Pilot Field next weekend.
However, Aveley - the team which occupies the last of the four relegation places - could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Margate and remain five points adrift of Hastings with three rounds of fixtures remaining.
Maidstone United kept their hopes alive by wining 2-0 at home to Concord Rangers but basement boys Folkestone Invicta are down and only a miracle can prevent second-from-bottom Croydon Athletic from joining them. Folkestone were beaten 2-0 away to Kingstonian and Croydon lost 1-0 at home to Tooting & Mitcham United.
Although Sutton - who will be crowned champions if Bury Town fail to win against Cray Wanderers on Sunday - deservedly claimed the points in front of a crowd of 1,552, they were given a helping hand by a couple of defensive errors.
Ben Billings was caught in possession deep in his own half for Leroy Griffiths’ opener on 33 minutes and Sean Ray’s reckless challenge on Craig Dundas allowed Andy Forbes to put the home side two-up from the penalty spot inside the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Hastings, whose initial plan was to keep things tight, had to come out and began to cause one or two problems with the excellent Harry Beautyman at the heart of most of their best moments. And it was the on-loan midfielder who halved the deficit just past the hour with thumping finish after goalkeeper Seb Barton’s free kick had been flicked on by Kenny Pogue.
Beautyman was later denied an equaliser by a good save from Kevin Scriven while, at the other end, the far busier Barton did well to frustrate Fola Orilonishe, Richard Jolly and Dundas.
Hastings (4-5-1): Barton; Rowe, Ray, Jirbandey, Manning; Adams, Olorunda (Hopkinson 55), Beautyman, Carey, Billings (Sutton 73); Pogue. Subs not used: Eldridge, Storrie.
Referee: Tony Power. Attendance: 1,552.
Ryman Premier bottom six standings (all played 39): Horsham 38pts (-35 goal difference), HASTINGS UTD 37 (-12), Aveley 32 (-26), Maidstone Utd 31 (-33), Croydon Athletic 28 (-47), Folkestone Invicta 27 (-27).