Formartine United slumped to a 2-0 home defeat by Forres Mechanics on Saturday.
United’s recent run of good fortune with a series of late winners and comebacks came to an end, and the loss sees them slip to fourth in the table.
Already, they are facing a formidable task in trying to catch hot favourites Brora Rangers.
Formartine, as usual, started promisingly but Forres, with the advantage of a strong, swirling wind, soon began to test them.
The game was played at a furious pace and action swung from end to end.
Early on, Knight turned a Napier drive round the post with Madle lurking dangerously.
Napier again came close when he fired low and hard through a ruck of players, only to see his effort flash narrowly past.
The home side continued to press and a McKeown chip from a corner landed on the roof of the net.
The second half opened with the Moray men getting slightly the better of the early exchanges.
A tight offside call in the 46th minute prevented Lee Fraser from breaking free for a one-on-one with Shearer, before the same player broke through to send a shot into the side netting.
What was probably the visitors’ best spell of the game brought a goal in the 61st minute. Fraser collected an over the top ball and from the edge of the box fired for the top corner. Shearer looked to have it covered but the wind took it over his head and into the net.
Formartine battled back and forced Forres onto the defensive. In the 68th minute Madle had a chance with only Knight to beat but the keeper got a finger tip to the ball to send it for a corner.
With United pressing for the equaliser there was always the danger of a punishing breakaway and so it proved in stoppage time.
It was Fraser again who did the damage, gathering a pass before side-footing past Shearer from 10 yards.
Realistically, Formartine’s last chance of winning something substantive this season now seems to lie with the Aberdeenshire Shield, when they face Cove Rangers away on Tuesday.
Formartine United: Shearer, Munro, Smith, McKeown, Hay, McKay, Napier, McVitie, Keith, Anderson, Madle. Substitutes: Bagshaw, Duguid, Clark, Jeffrey, Watson.
Forres Mechanics: Knight, Smith, Allan, G Fraser, Moore, L Fraser, Scott, McGovern, Kutsishvili; S Fraser, Soane. Substitutes: Ducan, Jones, A Fraser, Archibald, Forbes, MacKintosh, Simpson.