Just past the hour mark of Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown, Spalding United looked set to take control.
Nathan Stainfield’s equaliser offered hope that the Tulips could end a remarkable run of home league games without defeat for Shaw Lane.
But the champions-elect then showed again why they are heading for the title.
Gavin Allott put the Ducks in front for the second time and Spalding’s challenge was ended as Gary Burnett made it 3-1.
The final scoreline might have been a bit harsh in the first game since ‘Frexit’.
The shock departure of Dave Frecklington came after he had already accepted the championship bid was all over.
New boss Chris Rawlinson agrees that a play-off place is a more realistic target.
Defeat at Shaw Lane is not a big blow to those hopes as the Barnsley-based club have avoided defeat at home in 25 league games.
Indeed, their only loss at home since joining the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League came more than 12 months ago against Lincoln United, led by Frecklington and Rawlinson.
So it was always likely to be tough for the Tulips and the job was made even harder by the absence of Matt Varley and Leon Mettam.
Rawlinson picked Jordan Lemon and Neal Spafford in central midfield with Nathan Whitehead trying to support Bradley Wells.
But for the second half, at 1-0 down, he reverted to 4-4-2 and Spalding offered a bigger threat until they trailed again.
The opening period was a real battle between the top two without much quality.
The deadlock was broken as Burnett beat the offside trap, Jon Wafula’s initial shot was blocked and Allott blasted home.
Lee Beeson twice went close before he claimed an assist for the leveller.
Lemon was fouled on the left wing, Beeson swung over a free-kick and Stainfield flicked a header inside the far post.
It was game on and Lemon fired fractionally wide, only for Shaw Lane to restore their advantage two minutes later.
Allott took his tally to 15 league goals – four behind Wells at the top of the charts – by sweeping a right-foot effort into the bottom corner.
Michael Duggan denied his hat-trick chance but he could only parry Spencer Harris’ drive and Burnett left the Tulips to focus on a play-off place rather than top spot.
4-1-4-1: Stewart; Austin, Kelvin Lugsden, Qualter, Radford; Istead; Wafula (sub Algar 87 mins), Kieron Lugsden, Burnett (sub Touhy 90 mins); Allott (sub Thomas 90 mins). Subs not used: Brewster, Zanwieski.
4-4-1-1: Duggan 7; Walker 7, Miller 7, Stainfield 7, Jackson 7; Beeson 7, Spafford 7 (sub Downey 67 mins, 6), Lemon 7, Acar 7; Whitehead 7; Wells 7. Subs not used: Wightwick, Butland.
Allott (30 mins, 1-0); Stainfield (51 mins, 1-1); Allott (64 mins, 2-1); Burnett (74 mins, 3-1).
Kieron Lugsden, Whitehead, Lemon (fouls); Istead (dissent); Thomas (unsporting behaviour).
Nathan Stainfield – scored for the second successive away game in another defeat, despite a typical whole-hearted display by the skipper at the heart of the Tulips’ defence.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds (A) – Tuesday.