Three points slipped from Chester’s grasp and with it their National League survival hopes are fading fast.

The Blues fell behind on 11 minutes after Dagenham’s in-form striker Fejiri Okenabirhie found the net but Jordan Archer pulled Chester level on 32 minutes with a fine strike.

Academy graduate Matty Waters – recalled to the starting line-up after a long absence from the first-team – fired Chester into a surprise lead just after the hour mark and looked set to have secured a vital victory in their battle to beat the drop into National League North.

However, nothing is ever that simple when it comes to Chester and despite being just five minutes from a huge win, Marcus Bignot’s side inexplicably shipped twice to leave empty handed, Okenabirhie bagging his second before Andy Halls put through his own net with a minute remaining.

It was a case of dejavu for Chester, who had suffered an almost identical defeat at Victoria Road last season, leading with six minutes left but conceding two late goals, yet this defeat has ramifications far worse than that loss and leaves Bignot’s men six points adrift of safety with an inferior goal difference to those above them.

“Up until 85 minutes no one could’ve argued we weren’t value for the three points,” Bignot said.

“To come from a goal behind, the show the character we did to get ourselves infront at 2-1, it seemed the fourth goal in the game was going to come to us.

“To concede an equaliser so late into the game was disappointing, but one or two of our players are unhappy in the way the goal was allowed to stand.

“But to then lose the game from that position, you can’t imagine what kind of a dressing room that is at the moment.

“It’s important we pick them up because the positives far outweighed the negatives here, but the one big negative is obviously the scoreline and it’s massive disappointment for us.

“Dagenham can still put out a canny team who have been there and done it and know how to win football matches. That’s where we lack in that experience, game management to see a game out.

“They get the luck with their second goal, a contentious decision, but at that point we shouldn’t have lost the game. It wasn’t constant pressure and if there was a break in play on 85 minutes, you’d never have seen that last five minutes coming.”

Bignot refused to throw in the towel with 11 matches remaining, but knows back-to-back home matches against play-off chasing duo Bromley and Dover Athletic have now turned into must-win encounters for his young side.

“We told them to get as many crosses in as it’s something we lacked on Tuesday night,” he added.

“We tweaked the team because we thought we could get more delivery from wide areas. It’s a super ball and a super finish for the equaliser, I was really proud of the players for their performance.

“We’ve given everything. They will learn from those final five minutes but unfortunately, they’re learning in a difficult situation right now that we’re in.

“If you look at our last four performances, there has been an encouraging change. We’ve got a lot of youngsters out there who will learn from this.

Dagenham had lost five of their past six matches prior to this encounter, having seen key men Scott Doe, Corey Whitely, Sam Ling and Morgan Ferrier all depart in recent weeks to help ease their worsening financial plight, with the players given no assurances last week regarding being paid until the end of the season.

The first meaningful chance fell to Okenabirhie on 11 minutes and he curled home a delightful effort in off the post to hand John Still’s men the initiative.

Dan Sparkes went close with a header before Waters chipped an effort goalwards on 20 minutes which struck the bar and was thrashed clear by the Daggers defence.

To their credit, Chester fought back well and grabbed a leveller just after the half hour mark. Gary Roberts swung in a superb cross which was on a plate for Archer to tuck home his first goal on 2018.

Ryan Astles’ header nearly put the Blues ahead just after half-time but they didn’t have to wait long to take the lead through Waters. Dom Vose’s strike wasn’t handled well by Mark Cousins and it fell to the teenager six yards out who had the simple task of firing home to put his side into a precious lead.

Ross Hannah and Tom Crawford had half chances before Archer fluffed his lines on 71 minutes when through on goal, taking a heavy touch which landed in the arms of Cousins.

Vose always looked a threat and his effort on 80 minutes was gathered by Cousins, but disaster struck five minutes later as Okenabirhie struck a shot from 18 yards which whistled past Sam Hornby into the net.

A point wouldn’t have been the worst outcome for Chester but they were hit by a sucker punch with 60 seconds to go, as Matt Robinson whipped in a deep cross which full-back Halls could only head into his own net under pressure from Okenabirhie.