FOREST GREEN'S six game unbeaten league run came to an end in drastic style against Blue Square Bet Premier relegation contenders Braintree Town, writes Richard Joyce.
Rovers missed out on the chance to fly up to second with a poor performance in misty Essex that saw both sides end the game with ten men.
A switched off Rovers conceded two sloppy goals to put Braintree firmly in the driving seat before Chris Stokes notched his third goal in as many games after Ryan Peters saw red for the hosts.
But the evening's horror story for Rovers was capped when Kenny Davis struck Braintree's third from the penalty spot and Omar Koroma was sent off.
Rovers boss David Hockaday made a string of chances to the line-up that had started the weekend's FA Trophy exit to Gainsborough Trinity as Nathaniel Jarvis was handed his first full start since joining on loan from Cardiff City.
Jarvis was joined in the Rovers attack by James Norwood while Yan Klukowski and Paul Green made welcomed returns in the midfield three.
Slow starts have cost Rovers dearly of late, and on a boggy Amlin Stadium pitch, which was clouded in a sea of fog, it was their opponents who again took charge early on.
Davis' speculative volley was thumped wide after just a matter of minutes while Luke Daley's low shot skipped just wide ahead of the hosts opener.
Rovers' failure to deal with a ball in their own box cost them dear and Sean Marks was on hand to slam in his fourth goal in his last four appearances to give the home side an early break.
Norwood tested Danny Naisbitt with a low shot and skipper Jamie Collins' header from deep was easily collected by the Braintree keeper as the first half fizzled out with the home side on top.
A bold early second half move saw Hockaday shuffle his pack, and for the first time this season he made a triple substitution as Matty Taylor, Stephen Brogan and Jared Hodgkiss were introduced to spark up their attack.
The move looked to have worked almost immediately. Brogan's dangerous corner found Collins but he could only dig out a wide effort in just his second game after a two month layoff.
The killer punch that handed the hosts a hand on all three points came shortly after as the referee's assistant deemed Luke Daley's low effort to have crossed the line despite Rovers' best attempts to hack the ball clear.
Peters was then sent off for a late tackle on Koroma and defensive man Stokes nodded in to spark a potential Rovers comeback.
It wasn't to be, however, as Aarran Racine hauled Marks to the ground while trying to defend a free kick and Davis stepped up and confidently place his spot kick past Sam Russell.
With the game drifting away, Koroma hit the post from close range and then headed deftly wide ahead of his late dismissal.
The Gambian international went in late on Dean Wells and was shown a second yellow card for his second early visit to the showers this season.
Hockaday's troops will be looking to pick up the pieces with a tricky visit to Woking on Saturday ahead of a tough and busy Christmas period, with Newport County visiting the New Lawn on Boxing Day (1pm).
Braintree Town: D. Naisbitt; R. Peters, D. Wells, A. Massey, S. Hebergham; L. Daley (R. Watts 87), M. Paine, K. Davis, J. Mulley; S. Marks (K. Sheppard 90), D. Holman (P. O'Connor 76); Subs not used: D. Hunt, D. Sparkes.
Forest Green: S. Russell; J. Turley, A. Racine, E. Oshodi (J. Hodgkiss 58), C. Stokes; Y. Klukowski (S. Brogan 58), P. Green, J. Collins; O. Koroma, N. Jarvis (M. Taylor 58), J. Norwood; Subs not used: J. Rowe, R. Styche.
Referee: C. Breakspear (Surrey).