Chester’s were dragged closer to the relegation trapdoor after slumping to a desperately disappointing defeat at 10-man Woking.
Marcus Bignot’s side knew they had a serious chance at Kingfield to get to within a point of clawing out of the National League drop zone, but fell behind to Josh Staunton’s fortunate goal on 23 minutes and never truly recovered.
Chester – forced into releasing several players in the past fortnight due to a financial crisis at the Deva Stadium – were handed a lifeline as Matt Young was shown a harsh straight red card for a tackle on James Akintunde, and despite Ross Hannah missing two decent chances late on, the Blues created very little and got what they deserved.
Bignot was forced into four changes for the Blues, with Shep Murombedzi, Gary Roberts (both previously suspended), Jordan Archer and on-loan Bournemouth defender Shaun Hobson (debut) all coming in for Tom Crawford, Lucas Dawson, James Jones (suspended) and Andy Halls, who didn't travel with the squad as he is just three games away from triggering a new one-year contract extension.
Archer made an early run down the right flank which saw goalkeeper Nathan Baxter rush off his line to clear away. From the resulting throw-in, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner's long throw was flicked on into Harry White's path but Baxter gathered well.
Roberts, returning from a three-match ban was immediately involved, commanding the ball in the centre of midfield, while on-loan QPR forward Reece Grego-Cox looked lively for the hosts, dribbling past Kingsley James and feeding Anthony Cook but the winger was adjudged to be offside.
Murombedzi was fortunate to avoid a caution on 10 minutes for upending Nathan Ralph on the edge of the area, Sam Hornby gathering the resulting free-kick easily.
Ryan Astles picked out James Akintunde on the left flank with a superb 70-yard pass, and Akintunde wriggled past Young, crossing for Craig Mahon whose effort was deflected wide.
Woking thought they'd taken the lead on 18 minutes as Cook turned the ball into Grego-Cox's path to score, but the forward was flagged offside from three yards out.
The Cards only had to wait five minutes to gain the advantage and it was big defender Staunton with the luckiest of finishes.
Young's corner was met by Richard Orlu's header under pressure from Astles and the ball ricocheted into the knee of Staunton and left Hornby with no chance.
White's header at the other end had Baxter scrambling to save, before Cook went close for Anthony Limbrick's hosts with a fierce drive from 20 yards.
Hobson looked to have adapted well to his new surroundings at centre-half, producing some decent interceptions and looking strong in the air, before Ralph curled a 35-yard free-kick well over the bar.
Grego-Cox was cautioned for a late challenge on Hornby, who had rushed out to deny the striker from Jason Banton's lofted cross. It wasn't malicious but a yellow was probably fair.
Woking made a bright start to the second-half, clearly sniffing their chance to grab a second goal which would in all likelihood put the game to bed.
Banton's deep cross found Cook but his header went straight to Hornby, before terrible play from Rowe-Turner gifted Cook possession 20 yards out but the chance fizzled out.
Roberts fired shots from range in quick succession but both flew well wide, with White entering the notebook for a rash lunge on Young.
Referee Christian O'Donnell was the centre of attention on 58 minutes as he dismissed full-back Young for a challenge on Akintunde.
The Blues striker overran the ball and Young dived in to win the ball but mistimed his tackle and was immediately shown a straight red card for his troubles. It looked extremely harsh and a yellow card at the very worst.
The game settled down with Woking now keen to defend their lead and the ineffective Craig Mahon was replaced by fit-again Ross Hannah, returning from an ankle injury.
Cook was cautioned for time-wasting with 25 minutes still to go, but things weren't happening for Chester in an attacking sense.
Archer slipped at a vital moment when given a rare chance by Woking's defence, before Hannah squandered Chester's best opening of the day as he clipped the top of the bar from eight yards having been played in by a fine floating ball forward from Hobson.
More sloppy play by Rowe-Turner gave Cook a run in on-goal, Astles once again to the rescue, Staunton then went into the notebook for a late tackle.
Ralph felled Murombedzi, another player to be shown a yellow, substitute Dawson wasting the set piece which trundled into the safe keeping of Baxter.
A dangerous Roberts corner in stoppage time caused carnage in the box as Hannah saw a close-range shot well-blocked by Baxter, before Grego-Cox travelled fully 60 yards upfield with the ball and unleased a right-footed shot from 10 yards which crashed back off the bar.
A frantic few minutes followed, Archer unable to find White in the area in space, but the Cards held on and left Bignot’s side in a perilous position in the bottom four.
Woking: Baxter 7, Young 5, Orlu 6, Staunton 6, Ralph 7, Ferdinand 6, Lathorpe 7 (Isaac 86), Carter 6, Cook 8, Banton 7 (Jones 71), Grego-Cox 8; Subs: Edwards, Saraiva, Mason.
Chester: Hornby 7, Murombedzi 6, Astles 6, Hobson 7, Rowe-Turner 2, James 5 (Dawson 80), Roberts 6, Akintunde 5, Mahon 4 (Hannah 64), Archer 5, White 5; Subs: Firth, Crawford, Waters.