Port Vale boss John Askey rued costly mistakes as his side slipped to a 4-1 home defeat to play-off contenders Stevenage.
The visitors were in front with 12 minutes played, when Emmanuel Sonupe surged down the right, cut inside and thumped powerfully past goalkeeper Scott Brown.
Sonupe added his second five minutes after half-time when he turned in the box to arrow his effort beyond Brown.
Vale pulled one back through Cristian Montano with 23 minutes to go, but quick-fire goals in the closing six minutes from Ilias Chair and Kurtis Guthrie ensured Stevenage ended the day within two points of the play-off places.
Askey, whose side are now safe thanks to results elsewhere, said: “All the goals could have been stopped and it was really poor from our point of view. It is disappointing for us.
“It hasn’t happened too many times since I have been in charge of this club that we have defended as poor as that.
“I’ve never celebrated a 4-1 defeat before but obviously we have stayed up and, when I came in, that was the main aim.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that we have lost but I feel we didn’t deserve to lose the game 4-1.
“At 2-1 we were in the ascendancy and looked like we were going to get another goal but they hit us with two goals on the counter attack and that is what punished us.
“Our defending was poor today, but I thought we started really well and then got caught out and that was throughout the game, they hit us on the break and we didn’t deal with it.”
Stevenage boss Dino Maamria was delighted with his men’s display on the road.
Maamria said: “It is always difficult to come up here. Their fans get behind them quite a bit, but I felt we had our game plan that we executed to a tee today.
“I think in the first half we could have gone two or three up. We didn’t do that but the message at half-time was that we must score and get the second goal. We did that.
“When you’re away from home, a lot of things were going against us, but the way the players kept their heads and managed the game was fantastic.
“We believe that we can keep the momentum going until the end of the season.
“I think I have seen something different about the team today. We went on the front foot to score a third and a fourth, so that is a really big sign for us. We have hit our peak at the right time and have the momentum that we need.”