IF THE slenderness of defeats during Runcorn's slide into relegation danger has provided fans with some crumbs of comfort, there were no such consolatory morsels as the Linnets were comprehensively beaten at Manor Park.
And victories elsewhere for fellow drop contenders Stalybridge, Moor Green and Bradford Park Avenue only increased despair which was unbearable enough with all that is going on off the field.
A season in which bad news has invariably been followed by even worse tidings is heading for a tragic climax one way or the other.
As convincing as Nuneaton's victory was - and the win maintained the form which has seen their manager Roger Ashby take the February manager-ofthe-month award - the Midlands hosts were by no means exceptional. In many ways, Steve Soley's side contributed to their own downfall in a performance which must be quickly erased from memory with six-pointers against Bradford Park Avenue next Saturday and Stalybridge on Good Friday coming up.
Soley sprang a surprise before kick-off by omitting Robbie Moore from the starting line-up with the ex-General Chemicals defender, who has been among the more consistent performers, having no apparent injury.
Phil McDiarmid was also given his chance in midfield at Mike Garrity's expense. That was a little more of a shock than Tommy Taylor's predicted inclusion in attack, although Nicky Young's absence from the travelling party was unexpected.
Soley reverted to a sweeper system with his assistant boss Steve Carragher filling the role behind John Robertson and David Ness.
The two centre-backs kept the re-signed Brian Quailey quiet on his return debut while Gez Murphy, the impressive two-goal star of the corresponding fixture at Halton Stadium, didn't have the same direct impact. He didn't need to, however, as others around him chipped in.
That said, Phil Denny might have had three goals for Runcorn before Boro went in front within a minute of losing Gary Fitzpatrick to a red card, after the midfield player had elbowed McDiarmid.
Rob Oddy's 27th-minute opener was followed early in the second half by a 30-yard second from Michael Love, direct from a free-kick.
McDiarmid became the second Linnets player to be sent off in as many matches after picking up two yellow cards in quick succession for fouls - although there seemed an element of the referee evening things up.
Nuneaton added a third in the 84th minute as Michael Frew exchanged passes with fellow sub Stuart Wilson before tapping in to stamp the Warwickshire side's credentials as strong promotion contenders, although Southport remain firm favourites for the automatic spot to the Nationwide Conference next term.
Where Runcorn will be, goodness only knows.
RUNCORN: Thompson, Parle, McGinn (Soley 83), Robertson, Ness, Carragher, Jones (Field 54), McDiarmid, Denny, Taylor, Willis (Lock 64). Subs: Garrity, Moore. Attendance: 774.