Shrewsbury Town 3, Northwich Vics 1: VICS arrived at Gay Meadow to learn that relegation rivals Tamworth and Farnborough had already won their Boxing Day games - and then things got worse.
Before a crowd of more than 5,000 - 10 times the average home support Northwich have enjoyed this season - the gulf between top and bottom was laid bare.
Jimmy Quinn's Shrewsbury looked a Football League side in all but name, while Vics never looked like shaking off their whipping boys reputation or the ghost of Christmas future. This time next year they will be in the Conference feeder league. Unless...
Unless they can find something more than a willingness to do battle, which is all they are facing teams with nowadays. Effort shorn of ability, teamwork, flair and inspiration is nowhere near enough, as the table increasingly shows. But Chris Blackburn and Mark Devlin especially never stopped trying.
According to ex-Vics boss Quinn, Shrewsbury ought to have won by more and he bemoaned the fact his side are not scoring enough goals. Were he still at Vics then he could complain!
'We could have won by seven or eight,' he said.
The Peter Wright strike which reduced Shrewsbury's lead from three to two was only Vics' 18th of the season. Jody Banim, Quinn's buy from UniBond Leaguers Radcliffe, has scored more than that on his own.
And he was the home side's star turn, showing the type of sharp-witted skills Vics have lacked.
Frustration was beginning to grow for Shrewsbury after a host of missed chances until the opening goal arrived, six minutes before half-time.
Banim intelligently back-headed a cross from Kevin Street - a Vics player just over 12 months ago - and Colin Cramb found the net at the second attempt.
The second half followed a similar pattern. Vics were fighting a rearguard action but unable to break with any fluency and a second Shrews goal was inevitable.
It came on the hour when Banim nutmegged Mark Foran and crossed perfectly for substitute Andy Lowe to slide the ball home with his first touch.
Northwich were then indebted to goalkeeper Andy Woods for some super saves. He did especially well to deny Banim, Cramb and Lowe but he was powerless to prevent the third goal.
Darren Tinson, yet another ex-Green, flicked in Martin O'Connor's corner for his first goal since his move from Macclesfield.
Vics' sixth successive defeat was confirmed but their work was rewarded with a consolation goal 13 minutes from the end. Nicky Young battled hard and beat two men on the edge of the box for Wright to have the time to pick a bottom-corner spot.
The only other worthwhile effort from Vics came at 2-0, when Richard Norris brought a fine save from Scott Howie off Steve Garvey's centre.