HASTINGS United’s fight against relegation will go to the last day of the season after they lost 2-0 away to play-off contenders Tonbridge Angels on Easter Monday.
Crucially, the U’s will go into the clash against Aveley at The Pilot Field next Saturday with their fate still in their own hands because they remain one place outside the drop zone in the Ryman Premier.
Maidstone United sit just a point adrift but with a vastly inferior goal difference, so they would have to win away to AFC Hornchurch to have any chance of overhauling Hastings.
Aveley will go into the Hastings game on a downer because their own hopes of avoiding the drop were all but ended when they were hammered 4-1 at home to Hornchurch. They look set to join already doomed Croydon Athletic and Folkestone Invicta with one place still up for grabs.
Ryman Premier bottom five standings (played-points): HASTINGS UTD 41-38 (-14 goal difference), Maidstone Utd 41-37 (-30), Aveley 41-35 (-28), Croydon Athletic 41-31 (-48), Folkestone Invicta 41-27 (-31).
Hastings started the match at Longmead Stadium with the heavyweight trio of Harry Beautyman, George Porter and skipper Sean Ray all on the substitutes’ bench. Beautyman and Porter were both carrying slight knocks.
Kenny Pogue fired over the angle early on before a combination of former United striker Ade Olorunda and Sonny Miles forced goalkeeper Seb Barton into action.
Dan Walder fired the home side ahead from the penalty spot on 14 minutes after Josh Jirbandey - named captain in the absence of Ray - was adjudged to have climbed over Miles at a long throw-in.
The second goal came when Hastings were enjoying their spell of the match and all but killed off the contest with less than 20 minutes remaining. Sam Jones struck the decisive blow with a shot which flashed across Barton and into the far corner.
Beautyman - brought on as a second half substitute along with Porter and Ray - did force Lee Worgan into a decent save but by then it was too little too late.
Hastings (4-5-1): Barton; Storrie, Rowe, Jirbandey, Sutton (Beautyman 50); Adams (Porter 50), Olorunda, Carey, Eldridge, Billings; Pogue (Ray 76). Substitutes not used: Manning, Hopkinson.
Referee: P. Harris (Maidstone). Attendance: 817.