Andy Kellett's fifth goal of the season gave Chesterfield hope late in the game at Exeter City on Tuesday night before they fell to a 2-1 defeat.
Jayden Stockley gave the Grecians the lead in the 39th minute, when he rose highest to head a cross from the right flank past Aaron Ramsdale and into the net.
The hosts then doubled their lead in the second half, when Alex Whitmore could only divert Hiram Boateng's cross into his own net in the 73rd minute.
Substitute Joe Rowley then crossed to Kellett, who volleyed home in the 83rd minute, but it proved to be too little, too late, as Exeter held on for the victory.
Chesterfield started strongly but struggled throughout against the impressive Kane Wilson and Boateng, who was Man of the Match.
Jack Lester chose to ring the changes as five players returned to the starting XI following Saturday's defeat against Mansfield Town. In came Chris O’Grady, Louis Dodds, Bradley Barry, Sid Nelson and Whitmore as Zavon Hines, Ian Evatt, Drew Talbot, Jacob Brown and Kellett made way.
City came out strongly with Wilson and Boateng both showing early promise down the left; the resulting corner was claimed capably by Aaron Ramsdale.
Boateng continued to shine and fired a great ball into the box; Nelson got a vital touch to the second ball to clear the danger.
The Spireites pushed forward and won two successive flag kicks. Neither seriously threatened but the game had become more even.
From a free kick on the wing, Jake Taylor’s first time effort brought an alert save from Ramsdale and moments later he produced a similar quality stop from Stockley.
Frustratingly an off-side flag denied Kristian Dennis as he looked to poke home a quality ball from George Smith on the left.
Exeter had pace down both flanks and Boateng and Wilson combined well. Barry and Ramsdale kept things safe.
The deadlock was broken from a 38 min corner; the Spireites cleared initially but Stockley headed home from the ball played back in.
The Spireites had a couple of corners but failed to threaten as the home side eased safely to an interval lead.
As the second period resumed, the weather worsened but the Spireites looked determined and pushed forward from the kick off. Dodds did well to reach Dennis but his weak shot was saved easily and O’Grady had an effort blocked but the Grecians quickly pushed back.
Wilson tried his luck for the home side but his shot from distance flew high and wide.
Smith almost levelled just before the hour-mark after a bobbling ball came his way but his first time effort from close range brought an alert save from Christy Pym in the home goal.
Kellett replaced Robbie Weir for the Spireites’ first change.
Nelson twice headed clear from two quality Boateng crosses as the Grecians upped the tempo.
The pressure had been building and eventually it paid off. First, Ramsdale pulled off a super finger-tip save from Sweeney. From the resulting corner, Whitmore turned Boateng’s cross into his own net.
Exeter were in control and Boateng was denied as Barry blocked his goalbound effort.
Kellett passed to fellow sub Joe Rowley out wide and his ball back was powered firmly home by Kellett.
Taking the game to Exeter, Chesterfield pressed forward in numbers with Rowley making an immediate positive impression.
Five minutes added time was announced. A ball in from the wing from Barry forced a punch from Pym but there wasn’t time to threaten further.
Exeter: Pym, Wilson, Sweeney, Storey, Croll, James, Tillson, Taylor, Boateng, Stockley, Simpson (Jay)
Chesterfield: Ramsdale, Whitmore (Rowley), Nelson, Maguire, Barry, Weir (Kellett), Reed, Dodds, Smith, O'Grady (Brown), Dennis
Unused substitutes: Anyon, Talbot, McCourt, Hines
Referee: Brendan Malone
Attendance: 3,560 (134 Chesterfield fans)