Peterhead slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Stenhousemuir in the League 1 play-off final first leg at Ochilview.
Michael Dunlop gave Stenny the lead just after the hour after Rory McAllister missed a first-half penalty for the Blue Toon.
Skipper Dunlop found the back of the net again 15 minutes later to give the home side a huge advantage ahead of the second leg.
The two sides meet at Balmoor on Saturday and Peterhead need a huge turnaround to avoid spending another season in the fourth tier.
Mark McGuigan had a great opportunity after seizing on Jamie Stevenson’s poor back-pass but goalkeeper Greg Fleming did enough to force him wide.
McAllister’s moment came just before the break as Allan Smith was brought down by Mark Ferry. However the club’s top scorer screwed his penalty wide to keep the game scoreless.
Martin Scott headed over and Alan Cook fired wide for Brown Ferguson’s side before Dunlop gave them the lead, heading in Eddie Ferns’ corner at the far post.
Peterhead lost both Jason Brown and McAllister to injuries and Dunlop found the net again with 14 minutes to go, steering in Cook’s free-kick to give Stenny a decisive two-goal advantage heading into Saturday’s second leg at Balmoor.