There was no lack of spirit but Chester FC remain deep in trouble after the post-Steve Burr era began with a 2-1 reverse at Lincoln City.
Caretakers Jon McCarthy and Ian Sharps should take some encouragement from a battling performance and the fact results elsewhere did not go against the Blues, who had to contend with losing Ben Heneghan, Sam Hughes and Ross Hannah.
Robbie McDaid's 38th minute header gave the Imps the advantage in a tight first-half but the Blues offered more after the break and equalised through replacement James Alabi on 73 minutes.
Hannah went off clutching his hamstring and with no substitutes left, Chester had to finish the game with 10 men and Lincoln took full advantage with George Maris smashing in the winner in the 81st minute.
Following a quiet opening, the Imps almost took the lead on five minutes as Terry Hawkridge crossed and McDaid’s header struck the crossbar before going behind.
That was close as either side in a tepid start before a succession of opportunities at both ends.Sam Hughes blocked Hawkridge's effort before the recalled Tony Thompson saved from Jack Muldoon and John Rooney had Chester's first chance but scuffed his volley from the edge of the box.
There was little between the teams but Lincoln went ahead on 38 minutes when Hawkridge's inviting cross from the left reached McDaid, who glanced a header past the diving Thompson.
Hughes took a bang to the head soon after with Ryan Higgins coming on his place and the substitute had the final chance of the first-half with a header from Ross Hannah's cross that Imps keeper Paul Farman saved with ease.
Chester suffered a further blow at the start of the second period as Ben Heneghan, who had passed a pre-game fitness test, failed to return and James Alabi came on with Luke George dropping into defence.
With both teams far from fluent in attack, there was a shortage of clear-cut chances with Thompson saving a tame Muldoon effort and Astles' clearance cannoning off McDaid.Hannah dragged a shot wide after Mahon slipped him in behind the defence and Thompson again saved from Muldoon as the game started to become more open.
Lincoln brought on top scorer Matt Rhead and the Blues threw on Jordan Chapell for the final 20 minutes but it was another replacement who had the desired impact when Alabi levelled the scores on 73 minutes.
Hannah held the ball up well and found Rooney who clipped a cross over Farman for an unmarked Alabi to nod in his sixth goal of the season.Chester's injury woes worsened two minutes later when Hannah went down with what looked a pulled groin, ending his afternoon and forcing the Blues to finish the game with 10 men.
Lincoln made the extra man count almost immediately as substitutes Rhead and George Maris combined and the latter volleyed past Thompson from 10 yards with nine minutes left for what proved the winner.
Chester FC: Thompson, Hughes (Higgins 42), Heneghan (Alabi 46), Astles, Hunt, Mahon (Chapell 68), Shaw, Rooney, George, Lloyd, Hannah
Subs: Worsnop, Hobson.
Goal: Alabi 73.
Lincoln City: Farman, Wood, Howe, Bush, Beevers, Hodge (Rhead 62), Hawkridge, Sparrow, Caton (Maris 46), Muldoon, McDaid (Simmons 77).
Subs: Wildin, Grant.
Goals: McDaid 38, Maris 81.
Referee: Alan Young (Cambridgeshire).
Star man: Ryan Lloyd.