Basingstoke Bison dropped to second in the NIHL South 1 after a narrow loss at title rivals Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday.
Phantoms led the chasing pack heading into the first versus second crunch encounter after beating London Raiders on Saturday.
Despite a battling performance from the Herd, the team on home ice ran out 3-2 winners to edge closer to league victory, two points ahead of Bison who remain on 52 points with a game in hand.
It was a tightly contested match-up with the league’s top two teams duking it out.
Peterborough’s Glenn Billing scored the only goal of the first period when he converted a powerplay at 9.52 minutes.
Nathan Salem doubled the Phantom’s tally less than two minutes into the second period with an even straight goal.
Vanya Antonov gave the Herd hope with a powerplay goal on 29.25 to get Bison on the scoreboard to set up a nail biting final period for both sets of fans inside the Planet Ice Arena Bretton.
Both teams peppered their opponent’s goal with a combined 27 shots, but Phantoms maintained their cool as Billing snatched his second powerplay goal at 50.22.
Captain Aaron Connolly kept the game alive at 58.05 with a late penalty, but the Herd could not find a third path to goal to force the game to overtime.
Bison coach Doug Sheppard said: “We had one big game in Peterborough and we did what we needed to do to stay alive in the league title chase.
“The guys put in a massive effort to come away with that result.
“Obviously we were missing two key players and had to have Moggy [Stuart Mogg] play out of position but the guys battled hard.
“We went to win the game but sadly came up a little short, but we’re still alive in the league title race.
“Aaron Connolly came up huge for us scoring a goal we needed.
“He’s been a fantastic leader so far this season and is in great form going into the final weekend of the regular season and the play-offs.”
Home and away Autumn Cup Final fixtures against Swindon Wildcasts sandwich the Herd’s two remaining league deciding matches.
Bison face off on home ice with Swindon on Friday, before clashes with Invicta Dynamos on Saturday and Cardiff Fire on Sunday.
The return leg of the Cup Final will take place on March 16.