Formartine United made hard work of disposing of lowly Strathspey Thistle 4-2 at North Lodge Park on Saturday.
United eased to a 3-1 half-time lead but, as in recent matches, fell away in the second half and once again left their supporters frustrated.
For a club that has the ambition and funding in place for a serious tilt at the title, a capitulation of this nature against a team that has seldom risen above the dizzy heights of the bottom three in the league was bitterly disappointing.
It is clear that Formartine are no longer title contenders and at times that showed in their play when passages of insipid, lacklustre going through the motions style, albeit interspersed with spells of decent pass and move football that their visitors were unable to match.
Thistle took a surprise lead in the ninth minute, after having a goal ruled out for offside. McShane gathered the ball and hammered it hard and low past Shearer.
Formartine were stunned and soon applied pressure before drawing level in the 19th minute.
It followed three corners in quick succession. Madle was on the spot to force the ball home from close range.
Within 10 minutes the home side were in front.
Madle was the provider this time, sliding the ball to Anderson who fired in a blistering 20-yard drive.
Dunn was in top form in the Strathspey goal with a string of fine saves but he could do nothing to prevent United’s third on the stroke of half-time.
Graham Hay worked his way into the box and drove home from 12 yards.
Formartine seemed to think the game was won, but Thistle had other ideas and made it a nervy 3-2 in the 55th minute.
The home side failed to defend a set piece and a Borthwick corner was forced in by Wardrope.
United tried to extend their advantage but had to wait until two minutes from time before they could breathe more easily.
Callum Dingwall, making a rare first team start, broke clear and slotted the ball past Dunn. This added a tinge of respectability to a second half performance that barely merited it.
Formartine United: United: Shearer, Munro, Smith, Jeffrey, Hay, Clark, Napier, Madle, Keith, Anderson,
Dingwall. Substitutes: Duguid, Paterson, Lawrence, Wood, Watson.
Strathspey Thistle: Dunn, Wardrope, Maley, McShane, McKernie, Kerr, Groat, Peters, McCauley, Murphy, Borthwick. Substitutes: Robertson, Nedialkov, Hume, Patience, Tynan, Fraser, Matheson.