Notts County suffered a 3-0 defeat away at Crewe Alexandra.
Ryan Wintle and James Jones joined Aaron Taylor-Sinclair on the scoresheet shortly after Kane Hemmings had missed a golden chance to level the scores on a bitterly disappointing afternoon.
Neal Ardley made one enforced change to the team that battled to a 2-2 draw with Northampton last weekend.
Ryan Schofield, who was dismissed in that match, served his one-match suspension and, with Ross Fitzsimons ill, emergency West Bromwich Albion loanee Alex Palmer took his place between the sticks.
Matt Tootle and Sam Stubbs kept their place to face their former team, while their fellow ex-Railwayman David Vaughan had to settle for a spot on the bench.
On a chilly, overcast afternoon Crewe squandered a golden early opportunity when Paul Green drifted into space in the area to meet a free-kick. His header was weak, though, and Palmer held the ball comfortably.
The loanee was called into action again shortly afterwards, diving to his right to make a good save from Perry Ng's free-kick. The ball fell for Charlie Kirk on the rebound but he could only volley it over.
Crewe were emerging as the dominant force and Stubbs' defensive instincts were brought to the fore on 21 minutrs when he made an excellent intervention to deny Chris Porter a shot at goal six yards out.
The Magpies were struggling to impose themselves on Crewe's defence but had a glimmer of hope when Stubbs lost his marker in the area and looked set to connect with Michael Doyle's inswinging corner. The ball was just too high for him, though, and the hosts launched a counter-attack which resulted in Wintle firing a speculative effort wide.
Three minutes later, though, the hosts had the lead when a short corner routine resulted in Taylor-Sinclair guiding a header into the bottom corner of Palmer's net.
Notts' response came from Tootle, who claimed the Magpies' first shot of the afternoon with a well struck-effort from 25 yards. Ben Garratt was able to palm the ball away.
Stubbs was called upon again as half-time neared, getting in the way of Ng's well-struck half-volley, before Hemmings received the game's first booking for a foul on the same player.
There was one Notts change at the break as Enzio Boldewijn made way for Craig Mackail-Smith.
But Notts had to have their defensive heads on again shortly after the restart as Stubbs and Tootle sprawled to the ground to block a shot in the area.
Shortly afterwards, Callum Ainley sent a snapshot over Palmer's crossbar following a quick counter-attack through the middle of the pitch.
It had been a long wait for a clear-cut chance but on the hour mark it finally came courtesy of industrious work by Stead, who won the ball near Crewe's byline before rolling it into the middle, where Hemmings was waiting for a tap-in. The in-form forward miscued his shot horribly, though, scuffing the ball well wide.
Notts' pain was then nearly doubled when, moments later, Tommy Lowery received a cut-back in the area, only to send his shot straight at Palmer.
The hosts then did have the ball in the net for a second time when Lowery squared the ball for Porter to tap home, only for the assistant to flag the scorer offside.
Richard Duffy, who had sustained an injury in the build-up to the disallowed goal, hobbled off as Ardley was forced into his second change. Ben Barclay entered the fray.
And Hemmings nearly made amends for his miss shortly after play resumed, latching on to the ball in the area and striking the ball sweetly from a narrow angle. Garratt did well to push the ball into his side-netting.
Lewis Alessandra's introduction followed, with Stead heading for the bench.
And the substitute nearly had an equaliser to celebrate when Tootle arrived late in the area before bundling a left-wing cross just wide at the back stick.
Unfortunately, however, the next goal was to come at the other end as Wintle guided home a cut-back with a first-time finish inside the area.
And it got worse for Notts on 83 minutes when subsitute James Jones received the ball inside the area before seeing his heavily deflected shot loop up over Palmer and into the net.
O'Brien entered the book for a foul on Ng and Palmer made a good save to deny Kirk, who looked certain to score after scampering into the area.
And that was to be the last action of note as Notts remained bottom of the table.