Just when you thought Chester FC had taken two steps forward they go and take three steps back.
An truly abysmal first-half horror show saw them soundly beaten at FC Halifax Town and further deepened their relegation woes - they now sit six points of safety in the National League.
First-half goals from Tom Denton, Scott McManus, Danny Clarke and Josh MacDonald earned the Shaymen a fully deserved 4-0 success over a Blues side that simply failed to to turn up and display any stomach for a fight.
It was a game that summed up what has been a truly horrific year for the football club. It will take some turnaround for them to haul themselves out of this mess they find themselves in.
Marcus Bignot made two changes to the side that overcame AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy last weekend, with Ross Hannah dropping to the bench, as Daniel Udoh was handed a start, and John McCombe returned to the team in place of Myles Anderson.
There was also a spot on the bench for the fit-again Harry White after he netted twice in a behind-closed doors friendly with Birmingham City Under-23s in midweek.
Having started the season well, Halifax picked up their first win in 12 games last weekend with a 1-0 success over Aldershot Town - their first win since September.
Chester were slow out of the traps and put under some early pressure from the hosts with the 6ft 7in frame of striker Denton the focal point of their attack.
And with just six minutes on the clock Chester were behind.
Josh MacDonald got by Ryan Astles with ease to race into the area and cut back toMcManus whose goalbound effort was headed acrobatically off the line by Reece Hall-Johnson.
The ball then found its way to Michael Collins who curled a cross into the far post where Denton was on hand to nod home from close range.
And it was close to being 2-0 inside 10 minutes when, with Chester all at sea at the back, the dangerous MacDonald found space to let fly from 18 yards only to see his effort hit Denton who was in an offside position.
Halifax were causing havoc with every foray into the Chester half and more excellent work from MacDonald saw Sam Hornby flap at a cross, but the loose ball was stabbed clear by a panicked Blues back line.
The Blues did go close on 25 minutes when a Lucas Dawson free-kick was glanced inches wide by Denton when he had attempted to head the ball clear.
And the visitors did finally test Sam Johnson moments later when Hall-Johnson found some room to unleash an effort from 18 yards that the Shaymen keeper did well to beat away before a Dawson cross caused havoc in the box before being hacked away.
But then the floodgates opened.
Just before the half-hour mark it was 2-0 when a Denton flick was held up by Clarke in the box who laid the ball off to McManus to lash home from the edge of the box.
And the game was over as a contest on 33 minutes when Clarke got in on the act, nodding home an inviting McManus cross that found its way into the bottom right of Hornby’s net from 10 yards.
That goal sparked much anger from some travelling Blues fans with a number heading towards the front of the stand to chant, ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ at the visitors. It was a return to that miserable afternoon at Kidderminster Harriers.
When you thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Blues they were carved open once again.
A long ball forward saw the excellent MacDonald get beyond the Blues backline, out-pacing them before coolly slotting past Hornby for 4-0. It was no less than Halifax deserved.
And when the half-time whistle was blown there were a chorus of boos from the away following while the home side were treated to a standing ovation.
HALF TIME: HALIFAX 4 CHESTER 0
Bignot chose to throw Craig Mahon and White on at the start of the second half in place of the ineffective Kingsley James and Hall-Johnson in a bid to spark something.
Mahon and White did combine on 50 minutes to fashion a rare Chester chance when the former crossed only for the latter to head tamely wide from 10 yards.
At the other end Jordan Gough produced an excellent block on 60 minutes to deny MacDonald from making it five after he had raced onto a McManus pass.
Chester had a golden chance to pull one back on 65 minutes when James Akintunde’s jinking run found White in the box, but his effort from eight yards was pushed away superbly by Johnson.
And Mahon went close two minutes later when his volley from the edge of the box cannoned off Cliff Moyo’s head and out for a corner.
Halifax were still looking threatening, though, and McManus almost added to his first-half strike when MacDonald played him in, but James Jones did just enough to force him wide with the Halifax man shooting tamely at Hornby.
Halifax saw the game out in comfort while the travelling Chester fans displayed some wonderful gallows humour with their rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’.
They deserved better than this.
FC Halifax Town: Johnson, Moyo, Wilde, Brown, Garner, Clarke, Denton (Waring 90), McManus (Oliver 87), Hibbs, MacDonald (Tomlinson 74), Collins. Subs not used: Duckworth, Nicholson.
Goals: Denton 6, McManus 28, Clarke 33, MacDonald 38.
Chester: Hornby, Astles, McCombe, Jones, Hall-Johnson (Mahon 46), Gough, Dawson, Shaw, James (White 46), Akintunde, Udoh. Subs not used: Hannah, Halls, Rowe-Turner.
Referee: Glen Hart.
Attendance: 2,040 (367 from Chester).
Star man: Impossible to pick a Chester player based on this abject display. MacDonald superb for Halifax.