Chester FC boss Jon McCarthy expressed his disappointment after his desperately out-of-form side failed to all but secure survival - on their own terms.
The Blues were hammered 5-2 at Sutton United on Saturday to stretch their Vanarama National League losing run to five matches.
But results elsewhere means it would take a freak set of results on the final day of the season for them to go down.
Sutton scored twice in the opening eight minutes through long-range Adam Coombes and Adam May strikes and McCarthy admitted the quickfire double drained Chester's dwindling confidence.
Jamie Collins extended the Yellows' advantage before a thoroughly one-sided first half was out before Coombes and Nick Bailey piled on the woe after the restart.
The Blues did at least give their supporters something to cheer when top-scorer James Alabi notched a late double to take his tally for the term up to 18.
But there remained precious little to celebrate for the away end, or for the fans back at home, as Chester's dreadful end to the campaign continued.
McCarthy said: "You expect to get them (long-range strikes) every now and again in a season but we took two in the first seven or eight minutes. The argument is they shouldn't have had the space to have those strikes, but they're still outstanding strikes.
"It's a massive blow for everybody. It's a massive blow for the confidence of our squad. It was disappointing and hard to come back from.
"We showed some fight and spirit at the end and James could have had three or four. It's an outstanding finish for the first one and there was a little bit of football there. That's tough, so I appreciate that from my players, in terms of the character that they showed.
"Because of the nature of the game it looked like a lot of individuals doing work, rather than that team ethic, and there were a lot of forced changes on us, which made it difficult, but they stuck it and ground it out.
"But it doesn't mask it. It doesn't cloud what was a very disappointing performance.
"Thank you to our fans who applauded us. We're not celebrating. We wanted to do it ourselves. We know things have gone well for us and we've stayed up.
"But I go back to the fact that we did that. Nobody gave us the 52 points and nobody gave us the goal difference that the others clubs haven't got.
"But we wanted it to be us clinching it today, rather than other teams."
The Blues were seventh in the table and six points off the play-offs at Christmas after losing just one of their previous 17 league games.
But since the 2-0 triumph at home to Aldershot Town on December 17, they have lost 15 of their following 20 matches, yielding 13 points from a possible 60.
That sequence of results means Chester will go into the final game of the campaign at home to Boreham Wood on Saturday three points above fourth-from-bottom York City in 17th.
But given York, who host play-off bound Forest Green Rovers, have a worse goal difference of nine, the Blues are effectively safe.
At the start of the season the board gave McCarthy the objective of keeping the club in the non-league top flight for the second season running.
And the former Northern Ireland international said: "It's not my call to make excuses, and it hasn't been throughout the season, so I'm not going to start now.
"But it's quite a weak squad we've got. We've got real issues with Sam Hughes and Ryan Astles in terms of injuries today.
"I heard some fans having a go at me for taking Sam Hughes off but he picked up quite a nasty knock in the first half and he stuck it out for as long as he possibly could. He was a colossus for us again today. It showed the character of the lad.
"I'm not making excuses but we're quite weak and what it does tell us, and what we'll learn, is that the size of the squad has eventually started to catch up with us and make it difficult for us.
"But we put our work in that early part of the season, and actually there are four or five teams who have got a really anxious weekend next week, and we'll be all right."