FC Halifax Town started the New Year with a heavy defeat as they lost 4-1 at home to Macclesfield.
Mitch Hancox scored either side of half-time to put Macclesfield in command, before Scott Wilson added a third on the hour mark.
Substitute George Waring briefly reduced the gap, but Hancox scored from the penalty spot to complete his hat-trick.
Games against teams at the top of the table won’t ultimately determine Town’s fate this season, and anything against Macclesfield would have been a nice bonus.
The scoreline was harsh on Halifax, but the away side had too much quality for Town, who never looked likely to get anything after Hancox’s second just after the interval.
It might be the New Year but Billy Heath had the same old problems, as he was again forced to pick through the bare bones of his squad, with no Matty Brown, Scott McManus or Danny Clarke to add to longer-term absentees Nathan Hotte, Matty Kosylo and Martin Riley.
An injury in the warm-up to Michal Duckworth also meant a late recall for Dion Charles for his first start in three months, with Jake Hibbs reshuffled to right-back..
Town needed the fresh legs of Ben Tomlinson and Connor Oliver to help hunt down the ball, with Macclesfield enjoying more possession and looking more composed on the ball.
The reverse game on Boxing Day was fairly even, but Town were more like the away side at times here, pinned back by a Silkmen side possessing a strong pass-and-move ethos.
The Shaymen were working hard off the ball though, and restricting the visitors to very few chances.
After half-an-hour of mostly Macclesfield possession, Oliver spurned a glorious chance when he nodded over unmarked from inside the six-yard box from Hibbs’ cross.
Michael Collins then fired over from the edge of the box after a good run and pass by Charles; despite Macclesfield’s dominance, the two best chances had fallen to Halifax.
But on the brink of half-time, Ryan Lloyd’s exquisite through ball from the left flank released Hancox, who ran clear despite protestations of offside and slotted the ball past Sam Johnson.
That miss by Oliver looked even worse now.
Chasing the game against the league leaders 48 hours after a trip to Dover was tough enough, but the mountain got bigger just after the restart when a superb through ball played in Danny Whitehead, and his cross was tapped in by Hancox.
Town looked deflated after that, with any half-time bounce knocked out of them.
Whitehead was given too much time outside the box to size up a shot, which Johnson could only parry and Wilson was well-placed to rifle the rebound high into the net.
Waring got one back 10 minutes later with a nice turn and shot inside the box, finishing neatly across goal.
But two minutes after that, Hancox scored from the spot after Macclesfield were awarded a penalty. For what infringement was unclear.
Referee Peter Wright, an increasingly unpopular figure with the home fans, awarded Town a penalty for a foul on Josh Macdonald, but Tomlinson blazed his effort over the bar from 12 yards.
Halifax: Johnson, Moyo, Garner, Wilde, Macdonald, Hibbs, Collins, Oliver, Charles (Morgan 79), Tomlinson (Khan 90), Denton (Waring 51). Subs not used: Nicholson, Barrows.
Scorer: Waring (69)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 5
Macclesfield: Ramsbottom, Fitzpatrick, Lowe, Pilkington, Wilson (Marsh 74), Lloyd (Arthur 82), Kennedy, Hancox, Whitehead (Durrell 79), Burgess, Baba. Subs not used: Richards, Whitaker.
Scorers: Hancox (45, 48, 71), Wilson (59)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 3
Referee: Peter Wright
Town man of the match: Cliff Moyo