Not even a surprise return for Ched Evans could save Chesterfield from defeat by Fleetwood on a bitterly frustrating night at the Proact.
Conor McLaughlin’s goal, late in the first half and very much out of the blue, decided the game with the post, crossbar and great goalkeeping denying the hosts.
Evans was the man foiled by both the crossbar and former Chesterfield keeper Alex Cairns, Town’s Welsh international making his first appearance since 10th September.
It was one of those nights when nothing would go in and the result was greeted with boos from a section of the home support - the Spireites condemned to a record of one win in 10 League One outings.
Chesterfield fashioned an early chance, Dion Donohue starting the move with a sweeping ball out to Gboly Ariyibi whose cross was nodded down by Reece Mitchell, Kristian Dennis’ shot deflected over the top.
The resulting corner created a scramble in the box, keeper Chris Neal unable to gather the ball before his defence cleared.
Seconds later the stopper was down in agony, butrelieved to hear a whistle as Dennis put the ball in the net, referee Ross Joyce deciding thaty Gary Liddle’s challenge on Neal was free-kick worthy.
Neal’s night came to an end thanks to that collision, former Chesterfield back-up Alex Cairns coming on after just eight minutes.
The Spireites came agonisingly close to an early opener through a beauty of a strike from Ariyibi, the winger curling the ball onto the left hand upright from the right corner of the area, Cairns grasping at thin air.
The home side dominated territory and had the better of the possession in the opening half hour, without ever coming as close to troubling Fleetwood again.
Their best opportunity came from a Fleetwood error, a short back pass pounced upon by Dennis whose shot was blocked bravely by Cairns.
The Cod Army posed no threat of note until the 32nd minute when Mitchell gave away a silly free-kick just outside the home box, Fleetwood wasting the set-piece entirely.
But it was Uwe Rosler’s men who took the lead with four minutes remaining in the half, the first time they had attacked with any real purpose and guile, Conor McLaughlin exchanging passes with Jack Sowerby all too easily in the Chesterfield box and simply slotting past Fulton from 12 yards.
Having been on top and conceded against the run of play, the Spireites would have felt even more aggrieved had former player Jimmy Ryan found the net from an acute angle a minute later, but his shot flashed past the far post.
The second half was just 40 seconds old when Chesterfield fashioned a good chance to level, Dennis put through on goal but stumbling under pressure as he was closed down, poking the ball wide from the edge of the area.
Fulton came up with a big stop to keep the score at 1-0, denying Sowerby at the back post by making himself big and blocking the shot after a ball was whipped in from the right with the defence all at sea.
The Proact was lifted with half an hour remaining, Evans coming off the bench to a rousing ovation and replacing Mitchell.
Chesterfield’s intensity on the pitch went up a level, Evans twisting and turning in the box before feeding Donohue who saw a shot blocked.
A second goal for the visitors would have been a killer blow and when Tom Anderson lost the ball to substitute Devante Cole, the Spireites were living dangerously, Fulton saving with his legs from David Ball, but only just.
Evans was the centre of attention twice in two minutes, going into the book for a reckless aerial challenge on a defender and then seeing a snapshot palmed onto the crossbar by Cairns.
Frustration grew for the hosts when a corner caused havoc in the Fleetwood box and Sam Hird poked goalwards, Cairns somehow saving yet again on his goalline.
Chesterfield threw themselves forward in search of an equaliser but didn’t create anything more than an O’Shea shot that Cairns dealt with comfortably, before the referee brought the game to an end.
Chesterfield: Fulton, O’Neil (McGinn 76), Donohue, Hird, Anderson, Ariyibi, Mitchell (Evans 60), Liddle, Nolan, O’Shea, Dennis (German 53). Not used: Allinson, Evatt, Gardner, Dimaio.
Fleetwood: Neal (Cairns 8), Bell, McLaughlin, Eastham, Pond, Ryan, Depmsey, Grant, Sowerby (Nirennold 81), Hunter (Cole 67), Ball. Not used: Jonsson, Bolger, Woolford, Jakubiak.
Referee: Mr Ross Joyce.
Assistants: Mr Matthew Jones, Mr Ricky Wooton.
Goalscorers: McLaughlin 41
Yellows: O’Neil 50, Evans 83, McGinn 90; Grant 66, Bell 70
Attendance: 4,598 (54 away)