Eastbourne Borough battled bravely at high-flying Chelmsford but suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat.
The turning point came when left winger Frankie Raymond received a straight red card for a bone crunching challenging on Chelmsford’s right back Jack Ainsley on 59 minutes.
The home side’s top-scorer Jamie Slabber scored the winning goal with 17 minutes remaining with a smart turn and finish following good work from Joe Whight.
Until that point Borough had performed well against the Essex outfit who thrashed Farnborough 6-0 during their last outing at the Melbourne.
Tommy Widdrington’s arrived at the fourth-placed side in confident mood following their 2-1 home win against Hayes and Yeading last week.
There was no place in the starting line-up for Hayes match winner and this season’s super sub Darren Lok.
Crawley loanee Jonte Smith was partnered up front by Gary Hart while Elliott Charles, slowly returning to full match fitness, was on the bench.
There was still no sign off influential playmaker Chris Shephard who remains injured. Club captain Ollie Rowe was on the bench with Widdrington once again opting for Alex Wynter and Adam Watts at the heart of the defence.
The home side, who are 13 places and 19 points above Borough, applied early pressure but struggled to create clear cut opportunities against the Borough rearguard.
Bakare had a couple of half-chances but skipper Danny Potter in the Borough goal was not seriously troubled in a goalless first half.
The two defining moments came within two minutes of each other. Slabber, with 19 goals to his name already this season, replaced Robbie Edmans on 58 minutes and on 59 minutes Raymond was sent-off for what was described as ‘serious foul play.”
Lok came on to replace Smith upfront but this time their was to be no late winner for the young striker who is making quite a name for himself in his rookie season in the first team.
Instead it fell to the experienced Slabber, who has made his living from sniffing out chances in non-league football, to turn sharply and fire home beyond Potter from close range with 73 minutes on the clock.
Despite this setback and with 10-men working like Trojans all across the pitch Simon Johnson so very nearly forced a point on 80 minutes but was denied by a top-notch save from Searle.
A fine effort from Widdrington’s men who now turn their attentions to Bromley away on Saturday, for Chelmsford, their play-off push continues.
Chelmsford: Searle, Ainsley, Palmer, Haines, Clark, Whight, Vassell, Bridges, Miller, Edmans.
Subs: Calvo, Cook, Simmonds, Slabber, St Louis Hamilton.
Eastbourne Borough: Potter, Adelsbury, Cole, Gorman, Wynter, Watts, Johnson, Aldred, Smith, Hart, Raymond.
Subs: Uddin, Fenwick, Rowe, Charles, Lok