League leaders Ilkeston Town suffered a sobering defeat at home to Coventry Sphinx on Saturday in their final home game of 2018.
With first team coaches Craig Swinscoe, Martin Lench and Shaun Rickford still leading things from the touchline in the absence of official caretaker manager Ian Deakin, the Robins lacked the quality shown in so many games this season and were picked off by a side who were simply able to take their chances.
It further emphasised the need for the management situation at the New Manor Ground to be resolved one way or another as soon as possible, and while that fact won't be lost on the Robins hierarchy, there is a very real risk Ilkeston's title charge could be seriously harmed in the meantime if performances continue to be this poor.
Coventry were nearly in front inside a minute as Charlie Faulkner found space in the box and forced Liam Mitchell into a good save low down.
But they wouldn't be denied six minutes later as a Robins attack down and when the ball found Ryan Harkin he was allowed to run on without much of a challenge and his eventual shot deflected off Tom Marshall, over Liam Mitchell and into the net.
Ilkeston's first effort on target came on 17 minutes as Jamie Walker's low drive from distance was gathered by keeper Tom Cross.
Matt Baker headed a corner just wide on the half-hour mark as the Robins kept plugging away for an equaliser, but it would be the visitors who would soon get a second.
Faulkner floated a good cross in from the inside right channel and Harkin produced a neat, flicked header which lopped over Mitchell and into the net.
Elliott Reeves saw a shot well blocked by Cross on 38 minutes when fed by Jermain Hollis, then Walker's long ranger was deflected just wide of the post.
Harkin's long range effort went wide right on half-time, but the visitors' only two shots on target had them in front at the break.
Alex Marshall and Malachi Lavelle-Moore were introduced from the bench at half-time to give the Robins a three-pronged attack, the latter heading into the side netting from an early corner.
But Sphinx got their third on 54 minutes as a corner wasn't cleared by the Robins despite a couple of attempts and eventually Michael Quirke powered an effort into the far corner having come up from the back.
Sub Luke Barlone forced a good block from Mitchell after the Robins keeper had initially spilled his first shot, then Walker's effort was held by Cross at the other end.
The fourth goal arrived soon afterwards, Harkin allowed time and space to place his shot into the corner of the net and complete his hat-trick on 70 minutes.
Jan Yeomans forced Cross to tip an effort past the post soon afterwards, but that would be as close as the Robins would come for the remainder as Sphinx held firm to take the points.
Ilkeston: Mitchell, T Marshall, Yeomans, Shaw (c) (Bennett 72), Baker, Piliero (Lavelle-Moore 46), Fyfe (A Marshall 46), Hollis, Reeves, Dixon, Walker
Subs not used: Hopkinson, White
Coventry: Cross, Stringfellow, Hudson, Cairns, Quirke, Guest, Phillips, Woodward (c), Harkin (Downie 80), Gardner (Barlone 61), Faulkner (O'Grady 46)
Subs not used: Lower, Jackson
Ref: Callum Boocock