Rocks may have dropped out of the play-off places with this defeat.

But their battling performance (they lost 4-3) at the leaders, who have a six-point lead plus two games in hand at the top, showed that John Coventry’s men should in no way be counted out of the promotion fight.

A second-half hat-trick from the East Anglian host side’s Joe Francis proved a key factor.

Both side looked happier going forward than defending and it was a little surprising that it took 36 minutes for the scoring to start.

Lowestoft’s Gary Holt’s header set-up Craig Bussens to drive home. It took Rocks just four minutes to get on terms with Sam Berry firing home from Kris Newby’s lay-off.

And the visitors took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Kye Ruel chipped the ball over Andy Reynolds in the home goal.

Two goals from Francis after 60 and 62 minutes — the first from 25 yards — saw the Suffolk side, watched by an 857 crowd, in front again.

But the visitors were far from finished and Max Cornhill, set-up by Berry, equalised on 69 minutes.

That man Francis, however, was to have the last word with an 80th minute winner when he beat goalkeeper Richard Wray from Matt Nolan’s pass.

Rocks, who dropped to sixth, will look to reclaim a play-off position when they host fellow promotion challengers Concord at Rookery Hill tomorrow night.

* Great Wakering Rovers’ scheduled game at Redbridge was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

The village side are due to resume their own promotion push tomorrow in an Essex derby at Maldon Town.