Nelson missed a great opportunity to retain second spot in the North West Counties Premier Division as Atherton Collieries edged a seven-goal thriller at Victoria Park.
In a topsy-turvy game of two halves on Friday night, the Blues opened up a two-goal cushion within seven minutes thanks to a quickfire Mark Jackson double.
The first arrived in the fourth minute when Sam Livesey’s delivery was converted by the striker at the near post.
And the pair combined again just moments later when Livesey centred and Jackson, with his back to goal, swivelled expertly before guiding a sumptuous effort past visiting goalkeeper Dan Taberner.
Jackson went close to sealing his hat-trick but Taberner was on hand to repel his attempt at full stretch.
The away side looked to hit back before the break but their efforts were thwarted by a combination of Ben Woodhead and the woodwork.
After the interval the hosts had an excellent chance to extend their advantage but Livesey rifled over the bar with only Taberner to beat.
Nelson were made to pay shortly after when Mark Truffas’s angled free kick in to the area was nodded home at the far post by James Kirby.
However, the Admirals responded immediately when Warren Beattie’s header from Kevin Leadbitter’s free kick made it 3-1.
That should have alleviated some of the pressure from Nelson’s shoulders, but their opponents refused to roll over.
Substitute Jordan Cover gave the visitors renewed hope when his spectacular effort from distance flew past Woodhead to halve the deficit.
Then six minutes later, in the 69th minute, the game was all square. The referee believed Truffas’s shot was blocked by a hand, pointed to the spot, and Battersby sent Woodhead the wrong way from 12 yards out.
Taberner came out on top again as Matt O’Neill raced through on goal and Leadbitter missed the target with a clear sight of goal, firing a rasping left-footed drive narrowly wide of the post.
And such profligacy was punished in the 86th minute when Cover grabbed his second of the fixture, sliding the ball under Woodhead after latching on to a long ball.
The Blues will look to bounce back when they host Team Northumbria on Saturday (kick off 3 p.m.) in the second qualifying round of the FA Carlsberg Vase.