Alfreton Town lost out by the odd goal in five at the Impact Arena on Saturday as Stockport County recorded a Blue Square Bet Premier double over the Reds.
However, the visitors remain below the hosts on the fringe of the drop zone, while Alfreton are still not safe themselves with just four games left to play.
Daniel Meadows had given the Reds a 21st minute lead with an angled header from the edge of the six-yard box following Nathan Arnold’s accurate delivery from the left, but Stockport levelled the game through James Tunnicliffe’s header from a Jon Nolan corner five minutes before the break.
The visitors led 2-1 by the 48th minute when Mark Cullen steered home the loose ball after Josh Law and keeper Phil Barnes had cleared shots off the line from Cullen and Sam Sheridan in quick succession.
Cullen set up Nolan to thump home the third goal from the edge of the area, but a late strike in added time through Arnold’s angled drive after being sent down the left by Law gave the Reds a glimmer of hope.
With Barnes returning after injury, manager Nicky Law took the precaution of naming Nottingham Forest keeper Ben Gathercole on the bench, then with Leigh Franks injured in the warm-up son Josh had to be drafted before taking over from Anton Brown at the same time as Meadows scored.
Alfreton started with promise as Louie Soares fired over from six yards after the first of eight first half corners had been worked back to him after just 60 seconds, then Stockport’s Jordan Fagbola had to block another Soares effort seven minutes later.
Barnes needed to save Cullen’s low drive in the 14th minute, then at the other end Brown miskicked in front of goal after Darran Kempson had nodded down a Soares corner.
Meadows fired across the face of goal two minutes later, then as the visitors responded Nolan was well off target from distance.
Barnes tipped over Cullen’s rising drive from 16 yards in the 24th minute, with Cullen’s celebrations thwarted by an off-side flag as he headed in Nolan’s corner, then strong penalty appeals were waved aside as Paul Clayton was bundled over in the area.
On 36 minutes Sheridan had to clear Clayton’s header off the line from a Soares corner, then Theo Streete’s shot almost deceived Stockport keeper Richard O’Donnell after cannoning off Soares.
At the end of a lively first half Cullen’s shot from the edge of the area was held by Barnes, then Law had to clear behind from a Cullen corner.
Adam Quinn headed wide from Soares’ 58th minute corner, then Matty Mainwaring was only just wide from 16 yards seconds before Stockport’s third goal.
Cullen headed on to the roof of the net from Sean Newton’s deep free-kick, then O’Donnell raced out of goal to just beat Arnold as Steven Hewitt played him through in the 69th minute.
Dan Bradley’s effort from all of 35 yards needed tipping over by O’Donnell with five minutes remaining, then after Arnold’s goal Streete’s header was also turned over by the keeper as Stockport breathed a sigh of relief before Streete and Bradley both fired wide.
ALFRETON: Barnes; Rose [Hewitt 66], Kempson, Quinn, Streete, Brown [Law 21], Meadows, Soares [Tomlinson 66], Bradley, Arnold, Clayton. other subs: Worsfold, Gathercole. Att: 1157 [inc. 504 visitors]