Forget about the championship challenge, Spalding United’s promotion push is under threat.
The Tulips certainly won’t finish in the top five if they produce more performances like Tuesday night’s dismal display during the final third of the season.
Quite simply, they were nowhere near good enough. Some of the players should have stayed at home because they didn’t turn up anyway.
They looked comfortable in second spot with a chance of pushing Shaw Lane for the title in case of any slip-ups.
But this must be a one-off, otherwise the prospects of winning promotion will be gone as well.
From start to finish – and they left it very late for the winner – Carlton Town were well worth three points in the fight against relegation.
Spalding were sloppy and never looked like closing the gap at the top of the table.
They were lucky to be level at 3-3 and deservedly got only their second defeat in 12 games since November.
Following four successive away wins, perhaps some of the squad felt they just had to make an appearance and it would be an easy evening.
The Millers went ahead as Danny Elliott’s drive took a fortunate deflection off Jordan Wilson and the ball looped over Michael Duggan.
The keeper had four clean sheets in December before an injury but this was a night to forget all over the pitch.
Jenk Acar, returning on a youth loan from Lincoln City, set up Leon Mettam’s first goal for the Tulips with a left-foot shot six minutes later.
Referee Lee Freeman turned down penalty appeals for what appeared to be a blatant foul on Mettam.
Then at the end of the first half, William Mellors-Blair raced past Nathan Stainfield and fed Kevin Lusamba for a low finish.
Spalding showed small signs of improvement without being able to create any clear-cut chances early in the second half.
But it seemed to be game over as Carlton made it 3-1 with Danny Gordon’s left-foot strike into the bottom corner.
Just three minutes later, though, Spalding were level.
Mettam pulled one back by pouncing on the rebound when Jonny Lockie’s effort had been pushed out.
Stainfield’s superb curler into the top corner looked to have rescued a point.
The Tulips needed to win and Stainfield twice went close.
But with seconds left in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, Lawrence Gorman got in a right-wing cross and skipper Kieran Walker swept in the dramatic winner.
The anger and frustration felt by boss Dave Frecklington was perfectly understandable.
His team’s performance was unacceptable when they had an opportunity to stay in the title race.
4-2-3-1: Steggles; Carlisle, Gorman, Walker, Fletcher; Elliott, Wholey; Podier (sub Gordon 61 mins), Rae (sub Mellors-Blair 41 mins), Lusamba (sub Newton 79 mins); Wilson. Subs not used: Stovell, Phillips.
4-4-2: Duggan 5; Walker 4 (sub Wightwick 59 mins, 5), Miller 5, Stainfield 7, Jackson 5; Lemon 5, Varley 5, Whitehead 4 (sub Fleming 62 mins, 6), Acar 6; Mettam 6, Wells 4 (sub Lockie 71 mins).
Wilson (28 mins, 1-0); Mettam (34 mins, 1-1); Lusamba (45 mins, 2-1); Gordon (74 mins, 3-1); Mettam (75 mins, 3-2); Stainfield (77 mins, 3-3); Walker (90 mins, 4-3).
Carlisle, Varley, Jackson, Fletcher (fouls).
Nathan Stainfield – sensational strike to make it 3-3 and showed more determination than many of his team-mates put together. At fault for the second Carlton goal but he needed more support.
Romulus (H) – Saturday.