The Belfast Giants' chances of winning the Elite League suffered a serious blow when they were beaten 6-3 by Manchester Storm at the SSE Arena.
Adam Keefe's side trailed 3-0 after the first period and despite briefly recovering to get within a goal the visitors were well worth the victory.
David Rutherford (2) and Darcy Murphy were on target for the Giants.
The defeat means the Giants are now nine points behind leaders Cardiff and the Devils also have a game in hand.
The Giants iced without Colin Shields, Dustin Johner and Jim Vandermeer and will now face Dundee on Wednesday.
With Brandon Benedict in the box for hooking the Storm took the lead on the powerplay at 4:40 through a breakaway by Luke Moffatt.
With the home team at sixes and sevens defensively, Manchester scored twice in the space of 41 seconds to extend their advantage.
At 9:04 Matt Beca played an odd-man rush rush perfectly, timing the pass for Scott Pitt to convert.
On the very next shift Matt Stanisz fired the puck past Jackson Whistle from the left circle to make it 3-0 as the Storm outshot the Giants 15-5 in the opening 20 minutes.
A shorthanded effort from Murphy early in the middle session put the Giants on the board but on the same powerplay Moffatt pocketed his second goal of the game to restore a three-goal advantage.
As more penalties were called the Giants closed the gap with a pair of 4-on-4 goals from Rutherford just 45 seconds apart, the second a tap-in after the tough work was done by captain Blair Riley.
However the Storm were not about to let their lead slip and Ryan Trenz made it 5-3 heading into the final period.
With little even strength hockey played as penalties were called on a frequent basis, Moffatt completed his hat-trick for the Storm with a deflection on a two-man advantage with eight minutes remaining.