WITH the League Two comfort zone beckoning a fortnight ago Chester City are suddenly being dragged back into the heat of a relegation battle.
Their humiliating defeat at Gay Meadow, where they have only once been successful in 15 previous league visits, sent alarm bells ringing through the club and their travelling fans towards the exits midway through the second half.
It was a performance which had repercussions in the boardroom over the weekend and brought memories flooding back of the dark days of the pre-Vaughan era which sent Chester crashing into the Nationwide Conference.
While Ian Rush hopes it will be a one-off, players Richard Hope and Wayne Brown were quick to defend their manager and take responsibility on behalf of their team-mates.
'The gaffer and Mark Aizlewood did everything possible to prepare us for the game. It wasn't their fault we lost today.'
However, although such a heavy defeat may indeed be a one-off City's frailties are there for all to see and there isn't much time to put them right.
The absence of injured Phil Bolland may have had a bearing on the shambolic defending and Michael Branch could have provided more of a threat than Robbie Foy and Joe O'Neill, but every team has to cope with injuries.
Sadly, Chester also have to deal with more than an acceptable share of suspensions and, as Cortez Belle returned following a five-match ban, George Elokobi is set to start a suspension following his red card which led to Shrewsbury's third goal from the penalty spot.
It was worrying to see City carved up in the second half by a team which finished well behind them in the Conference last season and was sharing the same points at the start of this game.
The way Luke Rodgers was allowed a clear run on goal just before half-time before shooting the second goal was poor defending and that virtually ended hopes of getting back into the game, although Chester had looked devoid of attacking ideas and unlikely to score a rare Gay Meadow goal.
The rest of the game was embarrassing from a Chester point of view as Shrewsbury totally dominated and threatened to reach double figures.
Such was the difference in the quality of the football it was difficult to believe the teams were so close at the wrong end of the table.
To rub salt into their wounds Ryan Lowe, who had been a Rush target recently, helped himself to the individual goal of the game, a delicate chip into the top corner of the net from the edge of the box.
Shrewsbury should have filled their boots as the Chester defence looked bewildered and demoralised and it was Lowe who set up the fifth goal to complete a comprehensive defeat over their cross-border rivals.
Referee Paul Danson didn't endear himself to the visiting fans with two controversial decisions, including a red card for Elokobi, but to cast him as the villain of the piece would be to deflect from a dreadful performance.