A first half horror show cost Chesterfield dearly as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at home to Rochdale.
Gary Caldwell remains without a victory at the Proact and found himself the subject of furious discontent after his side conceded three without reply before the break.
Although there was an improvement after the break, and a fine goal from Kristian Dennis, it did little for Town’s now almost non-existant chances of staying in the division.
Perhaps the only positive for the home side was a promising debut for 17-year-old midfielder Joe Rowley, a young man highly rated by his manager.
Chesterfield’s habit of playing themselves into trouble led to Rochdale’s first chance, a rushed Tom Anderson clearance picked off before Joseph Bunney won and took a corner that Calvin Andrew headed wide.
The hosts then contrived to turn attack into defence, players panicking under pressure and passing the ball backwards, Dion Donohue’s back pass alarmingly close to being intercepted, Thorsten Stuckmann clearing in the nick of time.
At the other end Rowley was involved in the Spireites’ first real attack, playing a lovely one-two with Dennis to break the offside trap and round keeper Conrad Logan, the angle just too tight for the teenager who could only find the side netting.
The Dale were straight back on the offensive however, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing finding it all too easy to reach the byline and then cut back into the box, his left-footed shot deflected onto the post.
Keith Hill’s men were rewarded for their endeavour almost instantly, a mix up between Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Jon Nolan allowing Keith Keane to play in Ian Henderson, the visiting skipper dinking a beautiful finish over the stranded Stuckmann for the opener.
Chesterfield just weren’t putting any pressure on Rochdale in the middle of the park, allowing them to spray the ball left and right, where they found success in particular through the dangerous Mendez-Laing.
By comparison, Town looked rushed and jittery in possession, struggling to keep the ball for any significant period of time.
Five minutes before the interval Rochdale were deservedly 2-0 ahead, a corner cleared only as far as Callum Camps who drove a half volley low into the bottom right hand corner of Stuckmann’s net.
Town’s abject first half performance was further punished before the break, Jamie Allen afforded acres in which to turn and blast home from just inside the box, provoking an angry reaction from home supporters.
Caldwell sent on Rai Simons at the break, removing the struggling Osmann Kakay and switching to a 4-4-2.
Within six minutes of the restart Town had a goal back and it came from almost nothing, Dennis’ speculative bullet of an effort from 30 yards giving Conrad Logan no chance.
A last ditch tackle from Paul McGinn prevented Andrew from immediately restoring the three-goal advantage and Rochdale’s resulting corner led to a Town counter attack that saw Rowley get all the way to the byline before overhitting his cross.
Stuckmann was next to make a vital intervention to keep the Dale out, acrobatically palming Callum Camps’ fierce header over the top from a Mendez-Laing free-kick.
The crossbar then came to Rochdale’s rescue when a Donohue corner was met powerfully by Tom Anderson, the centre-half desperately unlucky not to score.
Referee Mark Brown took centre stage with a pair of odd decisions inside a minute - first ignoring a blatant tug on Rowley, then giving Rochdale a free-kick outside the area after Mendez-Laing was fouled twice - the second clearly inside the box.
Town skipper Paul McGinn brought a fine stop from Logan with just under 15 minutes left, the right-footed effort from distance bouncing just in front of the keeper who got down well.
The final stages were interrupted by substitutions and niggly fouls and the home side’s frustration eventually told, replacement David Faupala red carded in stoppage time for an off-the-ball incident with Joseph Rafferty.
Chesterfield: Stuckmann, McGinn, Anderson, Maguire, Kakay (Simons 46), Donohue, Martinez, Rowley (Gardner 74), Nolan, Ebanks-Blake (Faupala 66), Dennis. Subs: Hird, Fulton, Grimshaw, Mitchell.
Rochdale: Logan, McGahey, Bunney (Rafferty 65), McNulty, Canvan, Keane, Camps, Allen, Andrew (Vincenti 79), Mendez-Laing (Davies 90), Henderson. Subs: McDermott, Wilson, Rathbone, Kitching.
Goalscorers: Dennis 51; Henderson 16, Camps 40, Allen 42
Yellows: Donohue 60, Anderson 76
Red: Faupala 90
Referee: Mr Mark Brown. Assistants: Mr Richard Barlett, Mr Alan Clayton.
Attendance: 5,927 (454 away)