Exeter City fell to a 3-1 defeat away from home against Stevenage in Sky Bet League Two.
In a match where the Grecians created a host of chances, it was the hosts who were the more clinical as Alex Revell claimed a hat-trick at the Lamex stadium.
Pierce Sweeney did pull one back for City from the penalty spot but it wasn't to be as City will now have to settle for a play-off spot as they continue to search for promotion.
Match report sponsored by Speedy Freight
City boss Paul Tisdale made two changes to the side that started the 2-2 draw with Crawley Town last time out, with Robbie Simpson and Dean Moxey coming into the team, as they looked to keep up the pressure on Wycombe Wanderers in the race to claim the final automatic promotion spot.
The Grecians started well in the rain and created a good chance on three minutes when Moxey’s tenacious running saw the ball find its way to Hiram Boateng, whose cross to the back post was met by Jake Taylor, but his effort at goal was turned over the crossbar by defender Ronnie Henry.
Jayden Stockley was next to have an effort at goal on six minutes when he darted behind the Stevenage defence from Boateng’s ball forward. The City number 11 struck the ball powerfully and forced a smart save from Joe Fryer in the Boro goal who turned the ball behind.
But after surviving an earlier scare, the home side began to settle and had a sight of Christy Pym’s goal when Ben Kennedy found some space on the edge of the City box before curling an effort just past the post on 11 minutes.
And it was Stevenage who would take the lead on 14 minutes when some good interplay up front saw Matt Godden get behind the City defence before he squared the ball to Revell who slotted low past Pym.
But despite falling behind, the Grecians continued to dominate the first period in terms of chances, with Taylor and Stockley both having efforts edge just over as Tisdale’s side looked for a way back into the match.
Arguably one of their best moves of the half came when City won it back in midfield and Stockley did well to tee up Taylor, whose shot was palmed into the path of the on-rushing Robbie Simpson, but credit to the Stevenage defenders who raced back to clear before the City striker could fire into an empty net.
But just moments later the Grecians would find themselves two goals behind when, after a ball back to Pym was under hit, Revell did well to slide in and get a fortunate ricochet off the goalkeeper as the ball fell kindly for him to slot into an empty net, meaning the Grecians had it all to do at the break.
It was a nightmare start to the second half for the Grecians when Revell sealed his hat-trick on 49 minutes after receiving the ball just inside the City box before firing powerfully past Pym into the far corner.
Taylor then almost pulled one back on 53 minutes when Simpson did well to block a clearance which fell into the path off Stockley, who teed up the City number 25 who had his shot saved well by Fryer.
Substitute Kyle Edwards was next to test the Stevenage goal when he rose to meet Boateng’s cross, and credit to the youngster who managed to divert his header towards the far corner, but for Fryer who dived well to his right as he clawed the ball away.
Taylor then had two good chances just a couple of minutes apart. The first from close range when he had his shot at the near post smothered by Fryer, before the Stevenage keeper kept the midfielder out again, this time from distance from an effort which seemed destined for the bottom right-hand corner.
The Grecians finally found themselves on the scoresheet on 77 minutes when Taylor darted inside before being brought down in the penalty box. Sweeney then stepped up to calmly convert, giving the travelling City fans hope of a comeback.
They almost pulled another back when Stockley did brilliantly to work himself a yard of space before cutting in and shooting. But the City top scorer could only find the crossbar as the minutes continued to tick by.
A late Ryan Harley shot from the edge of the box saw Fryer once again keep City out as time ran out for the Grecians who will set their sights on promotion via the play-offs.
Stevenage: Fryer, Whelpdale, Sheaf, Revell, Kennedy, Amos (O'Donnell, 90+3), Newton, Vancooten, Godden (Georgiou, 89), Wade-Slater (Iontton, 19), Henry
Subs not used: King, Goddard, White
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, James (Harley, 73), Tillson, Simpson (Edwards, 58), Stockley, Moxey (Wilson, 45), Croll, Taylor, Storey, Boateng
Subs not used: Jones, Archibald-Henville, Brunt, Jay
Booked: Croll, Moxey