OXFORD United's slim hopes of reaching the play-offs finally fizzled out as they crashed to defeat at home to Accrington Stanley.
Needing a victory to stand any chance of taking the battle to the final game next weekend, a disjointed performance meant they never looked like signing off at the Kassam Stadium on a high.
They could point to a harsh opening goal in the first half from Kayode Odejayi, when the referee missed a clear trip on Michael Raynes in the build-up.
But weak defending led to James Gray extending the lead early in the second half, which prompted an angry reaction from supporters.
Ryan Williams did pull a goal back, but it did not spark a comeback in the final 20 minutes as United slid to a tenth defeat in 14 games.
While the favours they needed from elsewhere did not appear, the players did not know that and their timid display was hugely disappointing.
The teamsheet showed two changes from Monday's 1-0 defeat at Scunthorpe United.
James Constable came in for the injured David Connolly up front, while Ryan Williams was preferred to Callum O'Dowda.
Before kick-off Ryan Clarke received the player of the season awards as voted for by supporters and his fellow squad members.
The goalkeeper quickly showed why, getting down well inside three minutes to turn Tom Aldred's low shot round the post.
He was also stretched by a Will Hatfield header as Stanley made a decent start.
United took a quarter of an hour to muster an effort. Tom Newey intercepted a pass just inside his own half and picked out Constable, who fired wide off balance.
Accrington responded by opening the scoring on the break, in the 18th minute.
While there have been plenty of contributory factors to United's desperately poor run, they have been on the receiving end of some poor decisions.
Here they were stung by another, as Gray clipped a backtracking Raynes.
It was such a clear foul that United's players stopped, but Gray continued as referee Keith Hill waved play on.
Clarke did well to block the forward's shot, but the ball fell to Odejayi, who plundered a cheap goal.
The home fans were stunned as the players' protests fell on deaf ears.
Accrington were quick to put men behind the ball, but did break with a purpose and Hatfield came close to doubling the lead midway through the half after a weak clearance, while Josh Windass, son of former U's striker Dean, stung Clarke's palms with a fierce long range strike.
United were not short of attacking players, but yet again they struggled to carve out chances.
Their best moment before the break came via an error on 26 minutes, when Marcus Bettinelli dropped a cross from Josh Ruffels.
The ball looked like it hit the post before the goalkeeper scrambled to collect just before Alfie Potter arrived.
He was not troubled again before the break, or in the spell after the restart.
United were sloppy in possession and within seven minutes fell further behind.
Gray could not believe his luck as some weak challenges allowed him through and he buried a finish to make it 2-0.
The fans behind the goal made it clear they were embarrassed and resorted to making their own entertainment, throwing a toy fish around between themselves.
United were listless, but midway through the half stirred themselves to get a foothold in the game.
With 67 minutes gone they finally had a shot on target, as Williams found the corner of the net with a low left-footed effort.
Accrington came within a whisker of immediately restoring their two-goal cushion.
Clarke began to come out for a through ball but quickly changed his mind as Gray ran onto it, but his chip drifted over.
United huffed and puffed in the closing stages, but Bettinelli had little to do.
Come the final whistle it was Accrington celebrating staying up, as the U's players were left wondering if it was their final appearance at the Kassam Stadium in a yellow shirt.
Oxford Utd: Clarke, Hunt (Rose 76), Raynes, Wright, Newey, Williams, Wroe (Davies 63), Ruffels, Potter (O'Dowda 55), Kitson, Constable.
Unused subs: Crocombe, Rigg, Whing, Bevans.
Accrington: Bettinelli, Hunt, Winnard, Aldred, Buxton, Hatfield, Joyce, Windass (Murphy 79), Mingoia, Gray (McCartan 85), Odejayi.
Unused subs: Dawber, Liddle, Naismith, Webber, Atkinson.
Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire).
Attendance: 5,022 (117 visitors).