Chesterfield reached the League One play-offs thanks to results elsewhere, but fell to a 2-0 home defeat to champions Bristol City
City took the lead after 31 minutes when Keiran Agard pounced on an interception, stepped to the left of Sam Hird and buried a low shot past Tommy Lee to give his side the opener.
After 59 minutes the Spireites were two goals behind when Lee committed himself to punch clear a corner, didn't make it and Aden Flint was lurking behind him to head home into the unguarded net.
Gary Roberts tested the strength of the crossbar with a beautiful 25-yard effort, but that was as close as the Spireites came to scoring, Bristol City showing their quality to take the points.
A mouthwatering Saturday afternoon had the potential to go down in Spireites folklore as a win would seal an illustrious play-off place with just two games remaining of the regular season, but awaiting were champions Bristol City - hoping to spoil the party.
An electric Proact atmosphere geared both sides up to what promised to be a frantic pace throughout the game, and it did not disappoint in the opening stages as the crowd roared the supporters’ club player of the year Tendayi Darikwa down the right touchline, but his cross was just poked away from the onrushing Gary Roberts.
It was a tale of two good sides in the first half at the Proact, two sides who were engaging in a fierce tactical encounter, but it was the Spireites who carved open the first real chance, as impressive pressing from Jay O’Shea resulted in him stealing the ball in the final third before finding Jimmy Ryan, however he was denied by the feet of Frankie Fielding.
Tommy Lee has been an ever-present performer in the Chesterfield side this campaign, and he more than matched Fielding’s save moments before, as Joe Bryan trotted down the left and fired in a fizzing low effort, but a fabulous Lee left hand kept the scores goalless.
Despite Lee’s save he was helpless minutes later, as City won the ball in a dangerous area and former Arsenal man Jay Emmanuel-Thomas slipped in Agard, the forward calmly dispatching the ball past the Spireites number one.
Chesterfield reacted well to the champions breaking the deadlock, and Paul Cook’s side nearly bounced back straight away as the dangerous Dan Gardner clipped a ball into the penalty area, but O’Shea’s header was handled well by Fielding.
Darikwa continued to pose a threat down the right for the Spireites, and following patient build-up play between O’Shea and Dan Jones, Darikwa latched onto a crossfield ball before smashing some way over from 15 yards.
The second period began in the same fashion as the first ended, with few real chances, but just before the hour mark a wonderful bit of wizardry from Roberts’ left boot sensationally picked out the run of Sam Clucas, but after his first touch steered him away from goal, Fielding was able to tip his eventual shot round the post.
That Spireites chance gave Chesterfield the chance to build some momentum as they attacked the Kop, but after City won a corner kick, Marlon Pack’s teasing delivery met the head of Flint who guided his header past a committed Lee and into the back of the net.
Fresh from doubling their advantage City were taking the game to the Spireites in search of more goals, and after good wing play by James Tavernier, he measured what looked to be an inch-perfect cross for the scorer of the first Agard, but a terrific clearance from Darikwa kept him at bay.
Chesterfield have had a habit throughout the season of believing in that never-say-die-attitude, and they looked to be back in the game with 15 minutes left, as a clever free-kick routine allowed Roberts to unleash from all of 25-yards out, but his rasping strike cannoned off the underside of the bar to City’s relief.
Roberts’ effort appeared to sum up the Spireites’ afternoon as City had the opportunity to make it three in the closing seconds, but after Emmanuel-Thomas drove at Chesterfield’s backline, his set up to Tavernier was fired harmlessly over.
However, Rochdale's defeat to the MK Dons meant that the Spireites ended the the afternoon confirmed as a play-off team - to the delight of the Chesterfield fans who stayed after the game to wait for that all-important final score to come in.
Chesterfield: Lee (gk), Jones, Evatt, Hird, Darikwa, Ryan (Ariyibi 72'), Morsy (c), Roberts, O'Shea (Harrison 88'), Gardner (Banks 53'), Clucas
Subs not used: Carter, Raglan, Humphreys, Gnanduillet.
Bristol City: Fielding (gk) Williams, Flint, Smith (c), Emmanuel-Thomas (Elliott 89'), Freeman (Wagstaff 85'), Agard, Pack, Ayling, Bryan (Cunningham 74'), Tavernier
Subs not used: Osborne, Richards
Bristol City: Agard 31', Flint 59'
Attendance: 9,615 (1,602 away fans)