The destiny of the Ryman one south title is out of the Rocks’ hands for the first time in weeks after a despressing 1-0 loss at the home of local rivals Worthing.
A scrappy and forgettable derby played in unfriendly conditions was settled 12 minutes from time by a goal from Rebels top scorer Ryan McBride, who was later sent off for a second bookable offence.
The defeat leaves the Rocks two points behind Dulwich Hamlet, with both teams now having three games to play. Whitehawk are three points behind the Rocks but with four to play.
Dulwich and Whitehawk meet on Saturday and the Rocks’ best hope is for a draw - but even so, they will not be title contenders unless they can lift themselves for the final three games.
They had their chances at Woodside Road, with Terry Dodd forcing two excellent saves from Alan Mansfield and fluffing another chance when through on goal. But much of their play was laboured and they look like a long season is catching up with them.
The other bad news is that loan defender Osa Obamwonyi has been recalled by Sutton, leaving Stuart Axten and Ben Andrews as the only senior recognised centre-halves in the squad - and that’s with Axten facing a ban for his red card against Sittingbourne on Saturday.
The Rocks may yet appeal against the red card - otherwise they are likely to recall young centre-back Callum Sheriff to Nyewood Lane.
The first effort at goal came from Rebel Darren Budd against his old team but Craig Stoner dived to push his 25-yarder to safety.
It was a rather featureless opening to the game, with neither team fluent in the wind and rain in front of a crowd of 701.
After 18 minutes Dodd was claiming a penalty as the ball appeared to hit a home hand when he tried to lift the ball over his man, but his plea fell on deaf ears.
Stoner beat Mike Huckett to a dangerous low ball into the area before Sonny Cobbs was booked, apparently for dissent after one of a succession of debatable decisions went against the Rocks.
Ben Andrews, the team’s new skipper, blocked a McBride effort on the line after a Jamie Brotherton cross eluded Stoner and Cobbs directed a header at Alan Mansfield.
Ashley Robinson had a quiet first half but did beat the offside trap on 36 minutes to cross for Dodd, whose shot wasn’t strong enough to beat Mansfield.
Just before the break Robinson again crossed towards Dodd but a defender blocked it.
Dodd was first to threaten after the interval, escaping down the left and firing a low ball towards the lurking Cobbs that Mansfield did well to claim. Almost immediately Dodd was in the clear after a missed defensive header but his attempted poke past Mansfield was weak.
Brotherton ran into the box but shot wide of the near post with only Stoner to beat and then Budd miscued from 20 yards - but the truth was neither side particularly deserved to be in the lead.
Stoner denied Brotherton with his legs after Huckett played him in, while at the other end neither Dodd nor Cobbs could convert a nice first-time cross from the right by Kane Wills.
McBride was booked for a push on Axten - his 10th booking of the season earning him a two-match ban.
Robinson and Wills were both off-target from outside the box before the Rebels got a 78th-minute breakthrough.
Stuart Axten was at fault, dallying in the centre circle to give possession to Brotherton, who timed a pass perfectly to McBride, who was free to draw Stoner and lift a great finish over him to the delight of the home support.
The Rocks added urgency to their play and were aided when McBride saw red for another challenge on Axten - meaning he will probably miss the rest of the season once his ban begins, including any play-off semi-final or final, possibly against the Rocks.
Harvey Whyte and Obamwonyi came on as the visitors pushed forward, their best chance falling to Dodd after Andrews’ shot was blocked - but the former Rebel’s turn and shot ten yards out brought another great save from Mansfield.
That was the Rocks’ last chance and their fans filed away quietly, wondering if their hopes of winning the title might be about to disappear.
Rocks: Stoner, Marzetti (Obamwonyi), Wollers, Crane, Axten, Andrews, Cobbs (Whyte), Wills, Robinson, Dodd, Johnson. Subs not used: Harper, Killpartrick, Boyle.
* Next up it’s Whyteleafe at Nyewood Lane on Saturday - we will have live coverage here.