High-flying Wrexham were brought crashing back down to earth after struggling Lincoln brought their 12-match unbeaten run to a shuddering halt.
Seeking a win which would have closed the gap on leaders Newport County to just a point Andy Morrell’s men looked anything but recently installed title favourites as they capitulated to the Imps.
Missing several mainstays of the team Morrell can point to the lack of depth in the squad, which certainly contributed to this unexpected hammering. However, Wrexham were often their own worst enemies against a side they were expected to beat and beat handsomely.
Lincoln’s early dominance was rewarded when Nicky Nicolau fired them into a 20th minute lead despite appearing offside. However, you make your own luck and Wrexham certainly had their fair share in the opening minutes when the Imps striker Jamie Taylor wasted two glorious chances to open the scoring.
However, Taylor’s patience was rewarded with the blistering 56th minute drive that doubled Lincoln’s lead just when it seemed Wrexham were getting on top.
Conner Robinson (69) then took advantage of some woeful defending to extend his side’s lead. That prompted Morrell to ring the changes and it paid off when substitute Jay Colbeck reduced the arrears with a fine volley in the 79th minute.
However, the Imps restored their three goal advantage two minutes from the end when substitute Colin Larkin outfoxed Hunt before scooping the ball over Coughlin.
Joe Clarke grabbed another consolation goal for Wrexham in added time but it did not paper over the many cracks uncovered over the 90 minutes.
With Jay Harris and Neil Ashton serving one-match bans after accruing one yellow card too many Reds boss Morrell drafted in Joe Clarke and Brett Ormerod to the starting XI, the pair linking up in midfield with John Hunt slotting in at left-back.
The reshuffle appeared to have a detrimental effect on Wrexham, whose stuttering start almost cost them. Jamie Taylor squandered a fantastic chance after just 18 seconds when he raced on to a hopeful punt, only to side-foot the ball past the post with Andy Coughlin beaten.
Taylor then blazed a shot over from close as Wrexham’s defence struggled with his pace and power.
And the last line was weakened when Martin Riley went off injured after just six minutes to be replaced by Declan Walker.
When Wrexham finally strung some passes together they were almost rewarded with the opener. Morrell took a Dean Keates punt on his chest before off-loading the ball to Hunt. His fierce delivery into the box was too good for the Lincoln defence to deal with but the pace also beat Danny Wright’s attempted diving header.
Two poor Reds corners let the visitors off the hook and Wrexham were made to pay after 20 minutes. Dan Gray’s shot turned into the perfect pass into the feet of Nicolau who swept the ball under Coughlin from six yards with no red shirts near him. Fans in the paddock were incensed as they felt Nicolau was standing in an offside position but the lead, albeit fortuitous, was no more than Lincoln deserved at that stage.
Things got heated ten minutes later when Taylor and Walker were booked, the Imps man for a reckless challenge and Walker for his overzealous reaction.
Adam Smith and Gray were booked in quick succession for blatant time-wasting at corners deep into more than five minutes of first half stoppage time.
Wrexham pushed hard during the early exchanges of the second half, forcing four corners in seven minutes. However, Lincoln continued to pose a threat at the other end and Conner Robinson flashed a low shot just wide when afforded far too much space.
And things did eventually get worse for the Reds. Taylor collected the ball around 25 yards from goal and unleashed a ferocious shot which flew past Coughlin and into the net.
That knocked the stuffing out of Wrexham, who could barely string a pass together for a lengthy period thereafter and gifted the opposition possession on an alarmingly regular basis.
However, it became one time too many in the 69th minute. Hunt’s poor clearance from the edge of the 18 yard box fell straight to Robinson and he found the corner of the net with a precision strike.
That was the cue for Morrell to substitute himself and Walker for Colbeck and Nick Rushton. Seven minutes after his introduction Colbeck gave Wrexham a glimmer of hope with a cushioned volley from inside the box.
Lincoln’s Larkin turned Hunt inside out before netting his side’s fourth goal, and the madcap finale continued when Clarke side-footed home for Wrexham in injury time.
Nothing could mask a dismal performance by Morrell’s patched-up outfit, who now switch their attentions to the FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie against Southport.
Wrexham:Coughlin, S Wright, Riley (Walker 6; replaced by Rushton 72), Cieslewicz, D Wright, Ormerod, Morrell (Colbeck 72), Keates (cpt), Clarke, Hunt, Westwood.
Subs: Devine, Morton.
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Wrexham: Walker, D Wright
Lincoln City: Smith, Taylor, Gray