Dukinfield 20 Crewe and Nantwich 18 CREWE and Nantwich's faint hopes of promotion were dashed when they went down to second-placed Dukinfield on Saturday.
The narrow defeat leaves them stranded in Division Two of the Euromanx South Lancs/Cheshire League for another season.
A heavy and robust pack of Duk-infield forwards dealt easily with Crewe, and time and time again they drove forward before finding the home's side's fly-half who expertly found touch with robotic precision.
Tom Maguire had got his side off to a good start in the first five minutes when he cut through to score under the posts before converting himself.
But the home side quickly drew level with a converted try after a line-out.
Winger Marc Unsted made room for himself to score in the corner to put Crewe 12-7 in the lead, but two penalties from the hosts gave them a small lead at the break.
Maguire hit two penalties of his own to give Crewe high hopes of victory with just a short time remaining, but Duckinfield notched a converted try near the end to seal their win.
A Crewe spokesman said they had got their tactics all wrong: 'The obvious way to combat the strong Duk-infield pack was to stretch play across the field and attack through the three-quarters.
'But we consistently took the ball back into the congested area - a tactical error which cost us the game.'
Crewe 1sts do not have a game on Saturday, but the 2nds entertain Knutsford.
Meanwhile Sandbach suffered a disappointing 21-13 reverse at home to struggling Oldershaw in
Crewe and Nantwich U14s snatched a dramatic 19-14 victory over Chester on Sunday.
When Chester took the lead deep into injury time they looked destined
for victory, but Joe Gammage scored straight from the restart to seal a thrilling win.
Gammage and Dave Jenkins scored Crewe's other tries and Scott Cann kicked two conversions.