Bideford’s gruelling Evo-Stik League South West run-in caught up with them at Slimbridge on Saturday.
The Robins were on the end of a 4-3 defeat in Gloucestershire in what was their fourth game in eight days.
They went into the game off the back of a fourth win in a row – a 2-0 win over North Leigh on Thursday – and things were looking good when Ben Seymour gave the Robins the lead from the penalty spot after 15 minutes.
But Slimbridge levelled things up when Sam Turl headed home a corner on the half-hour mark, and they took the lead shortly after half time through Marley Thomas.
Kevin Squire turned in a corner to level things up on the hour, but the visitors retook the lead with 18 minutes left through Dean Turner.
Henry Birkett extended the lead before an Adam Thomas own goal set up a tight finale.
Manager Sean Joyce admitted his side had ‘nothing left in the tank’ for the match.
“We’ve worked so hard to catch up and to get to this stage and it’s tiring. It was always going to catch us up.
“They played on the Thursday night and got beat 9-0 but I think they kept a few lads back because they knew we would be tired.
“It was a difficult game because of the fatigue. If it had been a normal Saturday we would have been good enough.”
The Robins have three games to get through before the end of the season, and if they can take maximum points they are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
A trip to already-promoted Salisbury is first up on Tuesday night, then comes a journey to Cinderford Town on Thursday.
Joyce’s side then end the league campaign at the Sports Ground, with Winchester City the visitors.
Whatever happens, the Bideford manager has been more than happy with how his squad has performed over the course of the season.
“We’re still in it, and it’s still in our own hands,” said Joyce.
“If we win our last three games we’re in the playoffs, but I knew all along playing these games when we play them was going to be tough.
“Testament to the lads that with three games to go we’re still in it.
“We’ve come off a bad run and a lot of teams would have sacked it off. The mental strength of them to go again is something else.
“All we’ve done all season is chase, all we’ve done is fight hard to get ourselves back in it because of postponements.
“It’s the best set of lads I’ve had in years. They’re all fighting for each other.
“We’ve just got to go and finish it off now.”