Accrington Stanley left themselves too much to do as they made a thrilling return to action at home to Exeter on Saturday.
Stanley hadn't played for two weeks and it showed as Exeter charged into a 3-0 lead inside 24 minutes.
Peter Murphy and Kal Naismith scored either side of the break to give the Reds hope of a comeback, before keeper Marcus Bettinelli saved a penalty to keep them in it.
But despite a spirited display in driving rain during the second half, Stanley couldn't avoid going down to a second straight defeat.
The Reds had made a woeful start, with Tom Nichols latching onto a long ball in behind the Stanley defence to lob the stranded Bettinelli on six minutes.
The Reds replied with Tom Aldred heading goalwards but it was easily cleared and the Stanley defence were caught flat-footed again on 11 minutes.
Exeter fed Nichols on the edge of the box and he again lost his marker, Dean Winnard, to sidefoot home.
Although Danny Webber then tested visiting keeper Artur Krysiak with a low strike, the visitors stretched their lead when Bettinelli couldn't keep out Alan Gow's 20-yard strike.
Stanley finally managed to pile some pressure on the Exeter defence and they pulled a goal back on 38 minutes as Murphy headed home from Naismith's right-wing cross.
The Reds made a positive start to the second half as, five minutes after the restart, Naismith headed home from Lee Naylor's left-wing cross.
Stanley thought the comeback was over when Naylor was penalised for bringing down Nichols in the 55th minute but Bettinelli dived low to his left to turn Gow's spot-kick wide.
Galvanised by that reprieve, the Reds got back on top, with Krysiak having to pull off a fine double save to deny James Gray then Piero Mingoia.
Stanley brought on strikers George Bowerman and Shay McCartan as they chased a late equaliser but the closest they went was a McCartan shot which went agonisingly wide of the far post.