Tranmere’s position in the Football League is looking ever poor perilous after they slumped to a fifth successive defeat to Northampton.
Rovers are now two points adrift of safety with ten games left after an at times lifeless and limp performance produced a 1-0 defeat.
The visitors rarely troubled the Cobblers going forward, whilst at the other end they were shaky and had Owain Fon Williams to thank for a string of fine saves that kept them in the game.
Micky Adams made four changes from last week’s defeat to Dagenham, with Liam Ridehalgh, Kayode Odejayi and Dan Gardner all starting.
Michael Ihiekwe also returned, playing in an unfamiliar right-back role, as Rovers employed a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Evan Horwood meanwhile lined up against his former teammates, having swapped Prenton Park for Sixfields in the summer.
And it was his new side who made the better start, with Fon Williams twice called into action early on.
The Welsh stopper was forced to beat away fierce drives from Ricky Holmes and James Gray as Northampton looked to restore their play-off surge after losing to Bury last week, only their second defeat in 2015.
At the other end, Josh Thompson twice headed over as Tranmere settled into the game, before some nice build up play led to a shooting chance for Jennison Myrie-Williams on the edge of the box.
However, the on-loan winger rocked back too much on his shot and he fired well over the bar.
The hosts looked the more threating of the two teams though, and Rovers were given a real let off a quarter of the way through the game as Fon Williams pulled off another save.
This time, the ‘keeper had to arch his back to tip a powerful shot over the bar after Holmes had picked the ball up off Rob Taylor before embarking on a mazy 40-yard run that took him past several men and into the box.
Then, after a quiet ten minutes, the game exploded into life.
One long ball down the right beat Ihiekwe, and Gray ran onto it before rattling the crossbar.
John-Joe O’Toole then saw a low volley saved by Fon Williams before Micky Adams and his coaching staff were left seething after Myrie-Williams was brought down in the area but no penalty was given.
The hosts had one more chance before the half came to a close, Holmes’ shot saved by Fon Williams after taking a nasty deflection off Ridehalgh.
And with seconds to go until the break, Taylor was forced off with what looked like a hamstring injury, replaced by Rory Donnelly.
After the break, Northampton had one early chance, Gray nipping in front of his man to clip a cross off target.
The striker then had another chance five minutes later as Rovers managed to turn attack into defence worryingly quickly from a throw-in.
Ihiekwe took it and after possession had been given away cheaply the hosts surged forward, with Gray eventually firing a low effort towards the near post, only for Fon Williams to save.
Ryan Cresswell then nodded just round the post but that warning was not heeded as moments later the same man put the Cobblers ahead.
Ihiekwe gave a cheap foul away on the touchline, leaving Lawson D’Ath the chance to curl in a dangerous delivery.
And he found Cresswell, who stooped low and unmarked to head the ball past Fon Williams and into the net.
That was a huge blow for Rovers, but you could not deny the goal had been coming as they had had plenty of defending to do.
With twenty minutes left, Micky Adams tried to change the flow of the maroon tide as Rovers went in search of that important equaliser.
Josh Thompson came off, replaced by Jordan Hugill as Tranmere threw an extra man upfront.
But all that did was open up some space in the full-back positions for Northampton to attack.
Firstly, Brendon Moloney hit a bouncing shot straight at Fon Williams, before Gray once again found some space in the area, but he could only scuff wide of the far post.
That was the cue for Adams’ final roll of the dice, as first team coach Chris Shuker replaced Steven Jennings in midfield.
In truth though, it was going to take more than a few substitutions to change Tranmere’s attacking prowess in this game.
They struggled to get the ball forward all afternoon, and when Duke caught a corner from Power with eight minutes left, he must have been glad to finally warm his hands up on a brisk afternoon.
The visitors were finally having a go though, and a few seconds later Donnelly shot over the bar from range.
And then Duke made a splendid save, tipping onto the bar after a corner deflected goalwards off a Northampton head.
That was as close as Rovers got though on an afternoon which once again provided their supporters with little to cheer about.