Peterborough Phantoms suffered defeat in the first chapter of their double Christmas derby battle against fierce rivals Milton Keynes last night.
The table-topping city men went down to a 4-2 loss on the road as their four-game winning streak came to an abrupt end.
And they saw their advantage at the summit cut to three points in the process as closest challengers Basingstoke triumphed in Swindon.
Phantoms were punished for indiscipline when conceding twice in quick succession in the opening period as Brad Moore and Tom Norton sat penalties. Lightning imports Markku Tahtinen and Frantisek Bakrlik did the damage with powerplay goals little more than a minute apart.
Phantoms halved their arrears when a Lloyd Gibson shot trickled through MK netminder Dean Skinns early in the second session, but the hosts soon restored their two-goal cushion courtesy of Peterborough lad Lewis Hook.
Skinns redeemed himself with two fine saves from Darius Pliskauskas during a powerplay before Phantoms found another way through when Will Weldon poked in from close range.
There remained one goal between the sides until Bakrlik thundered in his second of the game with just over three minutes remaining.
Despite pulling netminder Janis Auzins, and enjoying a six-on-four powerplay for the final minute, Phantoms couldn’t manage a reply.
But they will be hungry for revenge when the sides do battle again tonight (December 27) at Planet Ice (5.30pm).
13:30 Tahtinen (PP) ass: Bakrlik/Jarventie
14:45 Bakrlik (PP) ass: Cownie
24:42 Hook ass: Emersic/Griffin
56:48 Bakrlik unassisted
22:55 Gibson ass: Pick/Moore
35:58 Weldon ass: Susters/Gibson
Milton Keynes – Frantisek Bakrlik
Phantoms – Lloyd Gibson