Crewe Alex have slipped to 22nd in League Two after being edged by the only goal of a low-quality game at Cheltenham Town on Saturday.
They are level on points with 23rd-placed Forest Green after a Jamie Grimes goal earned the precious points for the home side.
The Railwaymen will count themselves as unlucky after several gilt-edged chances went begging – and they were denied a clear penalty.
But in truth they did not play well enough, for long enough, to truly claim they had earned a share of the spoils.
It may not have been pretty, but this was a vital victory
Crewe were desperately poor for most of the first half, but Cheltenham could not find a way through.
The visitors did raise their game after falling behind, but this was a match Gary Johnson’s team simply had to win if they are going to stay within reach of the play-off places at the turn of the year.
In fact, it was a result they needed to avoid the risk of being dragged into another relegation battle, but there is surely too much talent in the squad for a repeat of that.
The all-important goal arrived early in the second period and despite some late scares, during which goalkeeper Scott Flinders excelled, Cheltenham held out for a second home clean sheet in a row.
The likelihood of involvement in the play-offs will be far clearer by the time Cheltenham travel to Stevenage on New Year's Day.
Cheltenham Town FC Official Website
Defender Jamie Grimes scored his third goal of the season as Cheltenham Town beat Crewe Alexandra on a chilly afternoon at the LCI Rail Stadium in Sky Bet League Two.
Cheltenham dominated the first half but could not find a way past Ben Garratt in the Crewe goal. Danny Wright and Mo Eisa came the closest but both their efforts from close range went over the bar.
The goal finally arrived in the 52nd minute when Grimes was on hand to convert Will Boyle’s clever headed knockdown.
The Robins were wearing a special one-off blue kit promoting the British Lung Foundation in support of coach Ian Hutton and his fiancée Vicky Veness, who was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year