Plymouth Argyle 3 Coventry City 1
Coventry City's calamitous defending at all but put paid to their slim chances of sneaking into the Champion-ship play-offs.
In fact, Micky Adams, the Sky Blues manager, admitted afterwards that he already has one eye on next season and where to strengthen his side for a genuine push for the top six.
All Saturday confirmed was something that has been evident since August; Coven-try struggle to defend without Robert Page at the heart of their back four.
And, despite having their critics, City struggle to replace first choice full-backs Richard Duffy and Marcus Hall.
At Plymouth, it was a patched-up defence which contained just about Adams's second choice in every position. But there was still no excuse for some of the basic mistakes that ultimately cost Coventry the chance to move up to tenth in the table.
Vincent Pericard, on-loan at Home Park from Portsmouth, must have thought he dropped down more than one division, such was the state of the Sky Blues' defending that allowed him to score the easiest of hat-tricks.
He notched his first, albeit after some early pressure from the visitors, when Coventry had chances to clear a throw-in from their box but their hesitation allowed the Frenchman to fire home from ten yards.
The Sky Blues felt the turning point came in the 25th minute when Stern John was floored in the box by Hasney Aljofree. Adams described the incident as assault but referee Paul Armstrong saw it as an accidental clash of heads.
City still had chances to draw level before Pericard doubled the home team's lead four minutes before the break.
Coventry's offside trap failed abysmally and allowed the bulky striker time and space to slide the ball under the body of Marton Fulop from the edge of the box.
Even at 2-0 it shouldn't have been curtains for the visitors as Gary McSheffrey twice worked Romain Larrieu before the break to give Adams's men a sniff of a chance in the second half.
Stern John, James Scowcroft and Dele Adebola all went close for Coventry but their miserable afternoon was made complete by an e mbarrassing mix-up between Fulop and Williams.
They dithered instead of dealing with a long ball, ran into each other and, as they lay on the ground, Pericard walked the ball into the net.
The absence of Page and Richard Shaw, as well as the two first choice full-backs had clearly been a factor but also Dennis Wise's inability to play again after completing 90 minutes in midweek had an adverse affect on the side which was clearly lacking a leader.
Adams had hoped the veteran midfielder would start but admitted the 39-year-old told him on Saturday morning he wasn't up to it.
"He's 39 and I have to listen to him if he tells me he is unable to play," said Adams. "If he were 29 then there would not be a conversation. But if he were 29, he would be playing for Chelsea and England, not Coventry."
Wise did appear for 12 minutes and his cameo captured all the elements of his short spell with the Sky Blues.
He was booked within seconds of his introduction for what could have been a redcard offence as he scraped his studs down the leg of the match-winner Pericard. Then with six minutes to go he latched on to a Claus Jorgensen cross and drove the ball into the bottom corner.
It was his fifth goal in six matches but Coventry's desperate defending earlier in the game meant it was scant consolation.