PRESTWICH Heys' play-off hopes are hanging by a thread after they crashed to a 4-0 defeat at promotion rivals Oswestry Town on Saturday.
Brendon Price put the home side ahead midway through the first half but the result was still in the balance before he added a second goal on the hour mark.
A Jack Harris strike put the game out of Heys' reach three minutes later before Callum Graybrook rounded off the scoring for the hosts on 87 minutes.
While the final scoreline was harsh, Oswestry were good value for their win as Heys, for the second week running, were beaten by a side that showed more resolve and were sharper at both ends of the pitch.
The defeat mirrored Heys' previous loss at Silsden as they missed a good early opportunity before falling behind then getting picked off on the break.
It took a timely intervention by Shaun Johnson to prevent Price giving the hosts an early lead before Dom Slaven lifted a shot over the bar at the other end after breaking down the middle in the 10th minute.
By and large though, Heys were finding it tough going. The enthusiasm and hard work of the hosts allied with pace out wide pulled Jon Lyon's team this way and that.
Price blazed over from six yards before the full-back finally underlined his team's early dominance with the opening goal in the 20th minute as he nipped in unmarked at the far post to slot home a low cross.
The goal fired Heys into life and they forced a flurry of corners. Debutant Brain Matthews glanced a header wide before, following a scramble in the box, Lee O’Brien saw a goal-bound effort hit team-mate Jamie Baguley on the line.
O’Brien then headed over from a good position, but Oswestry remained a threat on the counter attack, with Matthew Turner hitting the post on the stroke of half time following a break.
Heys made a good start to the second half, pressing the home side back, but were unable to create any clearcut chances and were made to pay on 60 minutes when Price slotted in after a Matt Jones shot rebounded off the post.
Harris glided through the remnants of the visiting defence three minutes later before adding a third goal.
Heys almost gave themselves a lifeline in the 67th minute when Jake Wood let fly from 25 yards but his shot came back off the bar.
Defending stoically, Oswestry answered everything Heys could muster.
Lee Bruce was crowded out by home defenders when he found himself in space 10 yards out, and home keeper Richard Cowderey pulled off two point-blank range saves to keep out Bruce and Slaven as the game entered the last 10 minutes.
And Heys were undone again by another quick-fire break three minutes from time when Graybrook scored at the second attempt after Kallum Campbell Rose had saved his initial shot.
The result left Heys in eighth in the Hallmark Security League First Division, one place and three points behind Oswestry and 13 points behind Sandbach in the final play-off spot, although they do have three games in hand.