After drawing first blood against Loughgall at a wet and windy Dixon Park, Ballyclare Comrades were unable to finish the job and lost 2-1 in what had been billed as a must-win game.
The half-time 1-1 score was a fair reflection of the play, but as the game progressed the visitors began to take control and always looked the more likely to score.
Despite the defeat, the Comrades are still two points better off than their County Armagh opponents, but both are too close to the drop zone for comfort.
Comrades survived an early scare when Marcus Dallas fired wide with only Flood to beat.
But in their first real attack, the Reds opened the scoring when Sammy McIlveen picked up a loose ball near halfway, advanced to the edge of the box and drilled the ball into the net.
Seconds later Peter Duffin could have doubled the lead, but he fired straight at Buchanan.
At this stage the Comrades had the edge and Gareth Buchanan did well to push a Joel Cooper effort round the post, and from the resultant corner was glad to see Ben Browne’s effort finish in the side-netting.
Loughgall levelled the scores when the Dallas crossed for Warner Mullen to head firmly in to the home net.
Two minutes into the second session, Flood pulled off a fine diving save to deny Steven Ferguson.
When play switched to the opposite end Browne fired wildly over the bar after he had been set up by Cooper, while later sub Randal Reid was also off target.
After Flood had denied Dallas in the 76th minute the impressive striker secured the winner two minutes later, when he blasted the ball into the net from close range.
Only another Flood save prevented Mullen from increasing the lead, but in added time Reid almost salvaged a point when he beat Buchanan, only to see his effort hooked off the line by a defender.
The defeat leaves Comrades six points above the drop zone, but they face a difficult end-of -eason programme with four of their remaining seven fixtures against title-chasing teams.
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood, Doherty (Brown 46’), C Reid, McCart (C), Buckley; Kane, McIlveen, Duffin, Browne (R Reid 54’); Cooper (Simms 67’), Simpson. Subs not used: A Hill, Trussell.