BURTON Albion's automatic promotion hopes were all but extinguished as an error from Rob Lainton handed Northampton Town a 1-0 victory at Sixfields today.
Both teams had plenty to play for at opposite ends of the table, but the Cobblers - whose Football League status is hanging in the balance - simply wanted it more.
In a largely dull and nervy first-half, chances had been at a premium until the 42nd minute, when John Marquis' shot from the edge of the area looked to have been dealt with by the Brewers keeper.
But Lainton allowed the ball to squirm through his grasp and over the line.
Albion made attacking substitutions after the break, but Northampton - roared on by a large and vociferous crowd - looked to more likely to get the second goal, with ex-Brewer Matt Duke rarely tested in the home goal.
Gary Rowett made three changes from the side which started the 1-0 win against Plymouth Argyle, two of those injury-forced.
Damien McCrory has a knee injury, so he missed only his second game of the season, with Phil Edwards coming in at left-back as David Gray retained the right-back slot.
Adam McGurk recovered from injury to start up front, with Gary Alexander, who has a slight ankle problem, making way.
In midfield, Robbie Weir also returned, at the expense of skipper Lee Bell.
An early shot from the dangerous Alan Connell, unmarked at the far post, was smashed into the side-netting before the same player lofted a ball through to Emile Sinclair, who blazed over.
Jimmy Phillips flashed a shot wide from distance before Gray pounced on a loose ball and found Callum McFadzean, who cut inside but saw his shot charged down.
Good interplay between Billy Kee and McGurk then saw the latter try a lob that was not on, and Duke watched it sail wide.
Connell then became the first to test either keeper as his stinging volley went straight down the throat of Lainton.
And the on-loan Bury custodian should have dealt with the next shot just as comfortably, but after Marquis collected a throw-in and let fly from 18 yards, Lainton spilled and Albion have it all to do.
Lainton did not reappear for the second half, a dislocated thumb - not to mentioned a bruised ego - the suspected cause, with Dean Lyness taking his place between the sticks.
In a double substitution, Ashley Hemmings also replaced McFadzean.
McGurk got away down the right and lofted a shot from the byline over Duke but onto the bar.
Lyness made a couple of good saves as Northampton pressed for a decisive second, with Albion largely pinned back.
Marquis was one of those to test the Brewers keeper as he connected with Chris Hackett's cross.
Alexander also came on, but was unable to rescue a point for the Brewers, who are now likely to have to make do with the play-offs.
COBBLERS (3-4-1-2): Duke; McSweeney, Tozer, Robertson; Hackett (Langmead 77), Ravenhill (c), Morris, Horwood; Connell (Dickenson 79); Marquis, Sinclair (Moyo 84); subs not used: Lopez, Snedker (gk), Deegan, Toney.
BREWERS (4-4-2): Lainton (Lyness 46); Gray, Sharps (c), Sherriff, Edwards; McFadzean (Hemmings 46), Weir, Palmer, Phillips (Alexander 70); Kee, McGurk; subs not used: Holness, Bell, Symes, MacDonald.