After a 5-0 thrashing from Morton left Dunfermline embarrassed, there was to be no lift in the mood at East End Park on Saturday as they slumped to ninth in the Championship table.
A back-to-basics game-plan had worked until Jack Turner glanced a header in for Queen’s Park’s opener in the 66th minute.
A sumptuous curling strike from outside the box from Dom Thomas then found the top corner to sap any remaining confidence from the struggling Pars.
And a third from MacKenzie Carse three minutes into stoppage time ensured another miserable afternoon for the Fifers.
When Dunfermline kicked off December with an impressive 2-1 victory away to Airdrie they finished the day four points clear in fourth spot in the Championship.
Only four points adrift of Partick Thistle in third, and with a game in hand, there were hopes of mounting a challenge up the table.
Yet, that optimism has been well and truly wiped out by a woeful run since.
Even when the Pars lost the New Year derby to rivals Raith Rovers to go four games without a victory, they were still in fifth place.
However, there is no disguising the harsh reality of their predicament after their winless spell stretched to eight games on Saturday.
Manager James McPake spelled it out in stark terms when he admitted: “We’re in a relegation battle for the rest of the season”.
The statistics make for grim reading and the league table is dire for the Fifers.
All the teams above them have superior recent records in comparison, particularly Saturday’s opponents, Queen’s Park, who have lost just once in their last five games.
But Dunfermline still know that, as things stand, if they were to win the game in hand they enjoy they would jump back to sixth in the table.
The relegation scrap they are mired in could involve multiple teams and they need points soon to ensure a gap does not open up to the sides above.
Or even give Arbroath – their next opponents on Saturday – some encouragement below.
What about the manager?
The loud boos that rang round East End Park at the full-time whistle on Saturday – and the previous weekend – were understandable.
No fan will accept losing 5-0 and 3-0 at home to competitors from the same league.
It is then an obvious reaction to seek to apportion blame, and the manager is the usual target.
Unlike some bosses, McPake does not hide from the fact he questions not only his team’s performance but that of himself and his coaching staff when things go wrong.
He freely admits he can have bad days as much as his players.
What he has been desperate not to do throughout a campaign of horrendous misfortune is hide behind excuses.
But the directors, who he is convinced ‘absolutely’ still back him, despite recent results, will know better the difficulties he has faced this season.
The Pars had nine first-team players missing at the weekend against Queen’s Park and eight the match before against Morton.
It is no stretch to suggest that at least six of those – Kyle Benedictus, Sam Fisher, Rhys Breen, Kane Ritchie-Hosler, Matty Todd and either Craig Wighton or Alex Jakubiak – would be regarded as first-choice picks every week.
Many have hardly played all season.
McPake has also had to do without his captain, Benedictus, for all but six league games, and his leadership qualities cannot be underestimated.
These are the the kind of factors that supporters should not be expected to have uppermost in their minds when venting their anger at another sorry home defeat.
But those making the decisions in the boardroom in the cold light of day need to be different and it appears, as things stand, the East End Park hierarchy are.
Dunfermline do not have far to look for inspiration in how quickly things can turn around in the Championship.
Morton, the team that dished out the recent 5-0 embarrassment, have been transformed since their own desperate low earlier in the season.
Following a 2-1 defeat to Partick Thistle on November 11, which left them on a run of one win in 11, the Greenock side were four points adrift at the bottom of the table.
However, since their SPFL Trust Trophy loss to Airdrie on the penalties a week later, they have not lost a single game.
With manager Dougie Imrie still at the helm, things have turned spectacularly, culminating in Friday night’s Scottish Cup triumph over Premiership Motherwell.
That stretched their unbeaten run to 13 matches and their hammering of the Pars gave them a four-point lead in fourth.
Morton have been remarkably revitalised and Dunfermline must believe they can pull off a similar transformation.
McPake revealed after Saturday’s dismal defeat to Queen’s Park that he had been close to adding a new signing ahead of the game.
Another is hopefully also in the pipeline this week.
Both are understood to be vastly experienced performers who can inspire and lead by example.
One look at Saturday’s side gives an indication why that is imperative.
Dunfermline completed a hat-trick of signings during the January transfer window, but all three – Malachi Fagan-Walcott, Brad Holmes and Xavier Benjamin – were fresh faced and lacking in top-team knowhow.
Saturday’s starting line-up boasted an average age of just 24 and just three outfield players were over 23.
The bench was even more inexperienced, with an average age of only 19.
When the initial stubbornness of the opening 65 minutes leaked away with two Queen’s Park goals in the space of just nine minutes, there were few options left for the Pars.
But, if they can get their two targets over the line this week, it will be a significant boost to the experience, energy and talent available to McPake for the coming crucial weeks.