A horrific leg break to midfield star Andy Gascoigne soured Harrogate Town’s comprehensive 4-1 over play-off hopefuls Chorley.
Gascoigne was on the end of a lunging high tackle from Chorley captain Andy Teague, minutes after putting Town ahead from the penalty spot.
The Chorley midfielder was shown a straight red card by referee Greaeme Fyvie before Gascoigne, who has scored five goals in six starts for Town, had to be stretchered from the field.
He left the CNG Stadium by ambulance just before half-time and x-rays later confirmed the midfielder had broken both bones in right leg.
Town made the most of their numerical advantage with their best performance of the season against a side hunting down the play-offs.
Paul Clayton’s header put them two ahead on the half hour before Josh Hine momentary halved the deficit with a second-half looping header.
That gave Chorley hope for three minutes before Jack Emmett returned the two-goal deficit and Jordan Thewlis sealed victory with the game’s second penalty.
Town had never beaten the Lancashire visitors but they came into the clash high in spirit following last week’s victory over title favourite AFC Fylde.
Boss Simon Weaver named an unchanged team for the third straight match, and his faith bore fruit in the opening ten minutes.
Chorley did carve out the opening opportunity, though, when Hine raced onto a poor sliding block from Leigh Frank but after driving towards goal, he dragged his shot wide.
Fresh from opening his account for the club last Saturday, Clayton then brought out a fine save from Sam Ashton with a powerful header from Ryan Fallowfield’s corner.
And from the Hull City loanee’s next delivery, over-zealous marking bundled Clayton to the ground and Fyvie had little hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Responsibility was handed to Gascoigne and he slotted the resultant penalty into the bottom right corner, with just enough power to evade Ashton.
However, his match, and season, soon ended.
As he approached the ball on the half-way line, Teague thudded through him with an outstretched leg high off the ground.
Gascoigne’s teammates confronted the visiting skipper in the aftermath, and with Gascoigne riling in agony, Teague was deservedly shown a straight red.
Teague’s imposing presence was missed at Town’s next set-piece opportunity and Clayton found another yard of room to power home a header from a dangerous Fallowfield delivery.
The match continued to flow in the home favour, and Emmett had a penalty appeal waved away before Thewlis smashed a shot wide.
At the other end, Peter Crook, who had trouble claiming Chorley’s corners all afternoon, produced a full-length stop to prevent Arron Burns’ shot-cum-cross nestling into the corner of the net.
Chorley did get one over the Town stopper early in the second half though, when a long boot forward by Ashton evaded all of the home defence.
Hine read the bounce best, and with Crook stranded, he looped a header over the ‘keeper and into an empty net.
The deficit was reduced for only three minutes until Emmett got his first goal in Town colours on 57 minutes. A deep cross by Louie Swain fell to the winger’s feet and he took his chance with aplomb.
Twelve minutes later the points were sealed for the home side in front of a noisy gathering in the home stand.
Fallowfield, who was at the heart of a lot of Town’s progress forward, tricked his way into the box but as he went to shoot, he was hauled to the ground.
With Gascoigne off the field, Thewlis stepped up to the plate and sent Ashton the wrong way.
Ashley Worsfold was then given another 20-minute run out from the substitutes’ bench as he continues to recovery from a nasty leg break of his own, and the striker showed plenty of running up front.
However, his only shot, from 25 yards, bounced kindly into Ashton’s chest.
Chorley kept chasing the game but clear-cut chances were few and far between, and their goalscorer Hine almost doubled his tally with the final act only to see his shot-cum-cross bounce wide.
The three points continues Town’s rise away from the relegation zone and Town takes them up to the 40-point mark for the campaign.
Next Saturday, Weaver’s 13th-placed outfit tackle old foes Boston United, who lie one place under the play-off zone.