IT was a nightmare before Christmas for Chesterfield, who will spend the festive period inside the League Two relegation zone following a calamitous defeat at Stevenage.
Their hosts hadn't won in eight league games before Saturday, but they were allowed to shoot almost at will by what can only be described as utterly clueless defending by the Spireites.
Only Forest Green's defeat against Carlisle prevented Jack Lester's midwinter being any bleaker, as just goal difference separates them with the bottom of the table going into Boxing Day's six-pointer with Crewe.
Jake Eastwood, who joined on loan from Sheffield United on Friday, made his first big save in a Chesterfield shirt as he diverted Matt Godden's shot against the top of the bar.
But the Boro did go ahead after 13 minutes when a dangerous low cross by Alex Samuel was touched in at the near post by Danny Newton.
The visitors then gave themselves a mountain to climb when a mistake by Ian Evatt allowed Dale Gorman in behind and he left Eastwood standing as he found the bottom corner.
This fired the Spireites into action as Chris O'Grady was miraculously denied on the line by defender Ronnie Henry before Joe Fryer saved from Louis Reed and Andy Kellett in quick succession.
The visitors momentarily gave themselves a route back into the game when an excellent cross by Kellett was powerfully headed home by Kristian Dennis.
However, Stevenage restored their two-goal cushion within a minute as a cross by Newton was deflected off the unfortunate Jak McCourt to give a stranded Eastwood no chance.
The frenetic action continued early in the second half, as Fryer produced a fantastic save to prevent Joe Rowley from pulling his side within a goal again.
They were soon three adrift and out of contention thanks to more shocking defending as the back four allowed a Terence Vancooten long ball to bounce and Godden sauntered through to finish.
Eastwood prevented a fifth goal for the hosts by keeping out Godden's deflected effort, but he could do nothing after the same man had been put through by Gorman on 72 minutes, as a miserable afternoon was capped.
Stevenage: (4-3-3): Fryer, Henry, Vancooten, King (Franks 79), Martin, Gorman, Smith, McKee, Samuel (Kennedy 67), Godden (Gray 74), Newton
Subs not used: Day, Whelpdale, Beautyman, Pett
Chesterfield: (4-4-2): Eastwood, Wiseman, Hird, Evatt (Dimaio 31), Binnom-Williams, Rowley, Reed, McCourt, Kellett (De Girolamo 72), Dennis, O'Grady
Subs not used: Parkin, Mitchell, Wakefield, German, Ofoegbu
Referee: Craig Hicks