Cobblers' promotion hopes hit as they suffer home defeat at the hands of leaders Swindon
Jordan Lyden scored a late winner as Cobblers' automatic promotion hopes were dealt a major blow with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of league leaders Swindon Town on Tuesday evening.
It was Town's second home defeat in the space of four days and unlike against Vale on Saturday this one was thoroughly deserved having been outclassed by the table-topping visitors, especially in a disappointing second 45 minutes.
The two goalkeepers made a couple of saves each before half-time but visiting stopper Steven Benda had the more difficult work and his early stop from Mark Marshall was particularly impressive.
However, the second period told a very different tale and having spurned several decent chances, the Robins eventually made their superiority tell thanks to Lyden's 78th minute header.
With every other top eight side winning bar Colchester, the defeat leaves Cobblers peering over their shoulders at the teams bunched up behind them instead of eyeing a potential automatic promotion spot.
Manager Keith Curle made three changes for the clash with Jordan Turnbull, Chris Lines and Andy Williams replacing Ryan Watson, Paul Anderson and Callum Morton.
Turnbull started in midfield but Cobblers were edgy in the early exchanges and a rare mistake from Charlie Goode presented the dangerous Eoin Doyle with a chance inside 90 seconds, however his tame effort was straight at David Cornell.
Cobblers got themselves a foothold and were only denied the opening goal by a terrific save by Benda as he got down superbly to tip Marshall's low shot around the post.
Doyle had another effort saved by Cornell but the game was gradually descending into a tetchy, niggly affair that was not helped by the referee constantly pulling play back for soft free-kicks.
Swindon probably had more dangerous passages of play without really working Cornell while Town's best moments predictably came from set-piece situations and one of which saw Sam Hoskins draw Benda into another decent stop with a well-struck effort on the cusp of half-time.
There was more gentle probing once play resumed before Swindon spurned a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock.
From a three-on-one counter-attack, Doyle rounded Cornell and seemingly put it on a plate for Diallang Jaiyesimi but he missed his kick with only Scott Wharton to beat on the goal-line.
The visitors messed up another chance to hit Town on the break moments later and again it was Jaiyesimi who fluffed his lines when the ball was played into his path.
But Swindon were starting to turn the screw and if any team was going to win it in the final 15 minutes, the visitors looked the likelier and so it proved with 12 minutes remaining when Lyden timed his run to perfection to head home Doyle's high, hanging cross from the left wing.
Cobblers didn't have long to save themselves from a second straight home defeat and they were agonisingly close to hitting straight back with Goode's header on course for the top corner until Benda got across to finger-tip over.
But the Cobblers struggled to muster anything else of note and they were fortunate not to lose by two when Jerry Yates smacked the crossbar in stoppage-time.
Cobblers: Cornell, Jones, Goode (c), Wharton, Turnbull, Lines (Watson 70), Adams, Marshall, Hoskins, Williams, Oliver (Morton 65)
Subs not used: Arnold, Harriman, Martin, Anderson, Warburton
Swindon: Benda, Caddis (Broadbent 27), Edmonds-Green, Fryers, Hunt, Lyden, Grant, Doughty (c), Jaiyesimi (Yates 67), Isgrove (Woolery 81), Doyle
Subs not used: McCormick, Palmer, Meskwe, Hope
Referee: Tom Nield
Swindon fans: 1,319