Macclesfield manager David McNabb conceded that Runcorn Linnets were the better side as he was handed his first defeat in charge.
The Silkmen missed the opportunity to move seven points clear of nearest challengers Leek Town as Dave Wild’s side came from behind to win 2-1.
Lewis Fensome ghosted towards the back post and headed home from close range to give Macclesfield the lead – despite their slow start.
Defending their slender lead was made more difficult when Kane Drummond was shown a straight red card on the stroke of half-time.
Second-half goals from Ryan Brooke and Jamie Rainford secured an important win for Linnets but Macclesfield had chances late on as James Berry hit the post.
“Disappointed, we came here to try and win the game,” McNabb told Off The Park.
“Not taking anything away from Linnets, they were certainly the better side, we were a little bit lucky to be 1-0 up, a little bit against the run of play.
“But then the red card has changed the game, we had to defend the last 10 minutes with 10 [men] then the whole of the second half, we’ve set up to try to make sure we’ve got some attacking intent but trying to shut up shop defensively.
“The referee has given a free-kick that was never a free-kick then fair play to Brookey [Ryan Brooke] who put it in the top corner which has put our second lot of plans to rest.
“It was disappointing, the penalty as well, but some of the decisions from the referee I can’t fathom or begin to explain what he was thinking but the lads worked hard and I thought in the last 10 minutes, we were going to nick a point. It is what it is, we need to regroup and go again Saturday.”
The hosts started brighter as they looked to close the gap on the league leaders. Macclesfield fashioned their first shot on goal after 35 minutes through Neil Kengni.
But despite the slow start, McNabb hopes his side can see it as an opportunity ahead of their push for successive promotions.
He continued: “This is a place that is hard to come to, a good side, good crowd, make lots of noise, it’s a hostile environment.
“Sometimes it can take people by surprise, I think our lads looked shell-shocked the first half-an-hour but we’ve got to learn from these experiences and come back stronger.
“Ultimately, we’ll take full accountability and take the result on the chin but it did feel like things were a little bit against us with the circumstances, the red card, a little bit soft, the free-kick they scored off which wasn’t a foul, the penalty from where I was felt like a penalty.
“The decision not to play advantage for a free-kick at the end was a really strange decision but we’ve got to take accountability for it and push forward.”