Northampton's dismal season took another worrying turn for the worse on a truly forgettable Saturday afternoon when they were taken to the cleaners by Oldham Athletic, hammered 5-1 at a snowy Boundary Park.
In a battle of League One's worst defence against the division's most toothless attack, there was no doubt who would prevail once Jack Byrne brilliantly fired Oldham ahead on just four minutes as the home side subsequently romped to a commanding victory.
Byrne added a second late in the opening period and Tope Obadeyi was also on target in-between,those goals as the Latics cruised further clear of the bottom four while keeping their visitors firmly in the mire in the process.
In fairness, Town had not been totally outplayed but one moment of individual quality, one lax piece of marking and an unfortunate deflection left them well and truly beaten by half-time, and there was also the small matter of their painful struggle for goals with their long barren run only ended by a moment of indecision from home goalkeeper Johnny Placide, whose inexplicable mistake allowed Sam Foley to pull one goal back straight after the restart.
But any sniff of a fightback was extinguished within moments as Gevaro Nepomuceno scrambled in Oldham's fourth of the afternoon and, not for the first time this season, it became a damage limitation exercise for the visitors, who could not even manage that with Craig Davies scoring an injury-time fifth.
This was another deary afternoon for the Cobblers - perhaps their worst of the season - whose problems all over the pitch show no signs of going away, especially when you consider that this abject performance came against a Latics outfit who went into Saturday having conceded a league-high 38 goals this term, though the final scoreline means Northampton are now pushing them for that mantle.
Following persistent heavy snow and freezing overnight temperatures across Greater Manchester, the Boundary Park playing surface underwent two pre-match pitch inspections prior to kick-off but the hard work of Oldham's ground staff and local volunteers was rewarded when referee Graham Salisbury deemed it playable, although the 332 visiting fans were quickly wishing it had been called off.
Once the game got the go ahead, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink named three changes to the team which lost at Portsmouth last weekend with Matt Grimes, Sam Foley and Billy Waters coming in for Lewis McGugan, Sam Hoskins and Marc Richards.
John-Joe O'Toole was fit enough to make the bench but the biggest surprise came between the sticks where David Cornell made his first league start since August with regular stopper Matt Ingram missing out through a shoulder injury.
The only thing worse than the deary weather was Northampton's wretched first-half as they found themselves trailing with just four minutes on the clock. The visitors had actually settled well but, in Oldham's first real attack, Byrne played a neat one-two on the edge of the box before curling a wonderful 25-yard shot over Cornell and into the top corner.
The Cobblers, lining up 4-4-2 with Foley on the left and Matt Crooks in a central role, were bidding to end a 500-minute goal drought going into this game but they struggled to make much of an impression on Oldham's supposedly leaky defence, restricted to just one half chance in the first-half which fell to Crooks who side-footed marginally wide from 20 yards.
Chris Long, Matt Grimes and Ash Taylor all tried their luck from range but to no avail while attacks at the other end where more regular although Cornell's only work had been to pick the ball out of his net, however that was something he had to do again on 26 minutes.
And this time, unlike the first, the goal was so easily avoidable. Scorer of the opener, Byrne turned provider when his corner was met by Obadeyi who got in front of his man and had the simple task of nodding beyond Cornell to double Oldham's advantage.
Town attempted to conjure some sort of response and find a way route back into the game but their lack of width, pace and creativity was all too apparent and worse was to come later in the half.
To cap off an utterly forgettable opening 45 minutes, Byrne added to his earlier goal and assist by finding the net again in stoppage-time, though he did require a slice of good fortune on this occasion when his shot from 20 yards took a wicked deflection and left Cornell wrong-footed.
In a desperate attempt to spark his side into life, Hasselbaink threw on key man O'Toole at half-time and it looked to have the desired impact when the visitors pulled one goal back within two minutes of the restart.
Their first goal in over 550 minutes of football came about in predictably bizarre circumstances when home 'keeper Placide dallied on the ball and allowed Long to close him down and win possession back before he squared to Foley who stroked the ball into an empty net.
That gave Town a new lease of life and a couple of attacks hinted at an unlikely comeback but they both came to nothing and hopes of getting something out of this game were dashed once and for all on the hour-mark.
Hesitation from Taylor saw Eoin Doyle released through on goal and whilst Cornell raced out to save the striker's attempted dink, the loose ball fell kindly to for the home side with a combination of Nepomuceno and Brendan Moloney sliding the ball into an unguarded net.
Placide was quickly at full stretch to tip Crooks' shot around the post and he also kept out Long while Doyle volleyed over from 12 yards as both sides threatened to add to the scoreline, and Oldham did just that in stoppage-time when substitute Craig Davies smashed home a right-wing cross.
That added the gloss to a crucial and fully deserved victory for the Latics, leaving Cobblers to ponder where on earth they go next as they drop to second from bottom and a long way from safety.
Oldham: Placide, Dummigan, Gerrard (c), Gardner, Doyle, Hunt, Fane, Nepomuceno (Davies 88), Byrne (Amadi-Holloway 89), Obadeyi (Flynn 77), Bryan
Subs not used: Ben Wilson, Brian Wilson, Menig, Green
Cobblers: Cornell, Moloney, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan, Poole (O'Toole 45), Grimes, Foley, Waters (Smith 66), Crooks, Long
Subs not used: Coddington, Pierre, McGivern, McGugan, Richards
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Cobblers fans: 332