John Marquis returned to haunt Pompey – again – as the Blues were beaten 3-1 at League Two leaders Doncaster tonight.
Victory would have closed the gap to third place to a single point and eaten into Donny’s seven-point advantage over Paul Cook’s promotion chasers.
But after former Pompey loanee Marquis, who scored in Rovers’ 2-1 win at Fratton Park earlier this season - had finished off the visitors with his second goal midway through the second half, the Blues were left staring a 10-point gap to Donny and four to the automatic-promotion places, with their rivals possessing a game in hand.
Kal Naismith cancelled out Marquis’ early headed opener to give the Blues parity at the break,
But Tommy Rowe’s fizzing shot after the interval and the dangerous Marquis’ second saw Pompey were beaten once again by Darren Ferguson’s impressive table toppers.
The visitors made the worst possible start - finding themselves behind inside five minutes.
Doncaster skipper James Coppinger’s cross flicked off the back of team-mate Matty Blair, falling kindly for Marquis to head home from close range against his former club.
The Blues were on the ropes for the next 10 minutes, but survived an intense spell of home pressure to provide the next goalscoring opportunity of the game.
Matt Clarke it was who rose unchallenged from a Carl Baker cross, but his downward header was brilliantly kept out by Donny stopper Marko Marosi.
Pompey were almost made to pay for that missed chance moments later when Marquis almost scored his and Rovers’ second, heading Craig Alcock’s cross onto the point of post and crossbar.
It was a huge let-off for the Blues, who rallied to get on top of proceedings.
And after a few half-chances, their growing influence in the game told just before the break when Naismith levelled the scoring.
Former Donny winger Kyle Bennett played him in on goal and Naismith kept his cool to slide past Marosi and into the net.
It was the hosts who struck first in the second period, however, with Tommy Rowe restoring their lead just before the hour mark.
Coppinger again played his part - teeing up Rowe but after bundling his way through Gareth Evans’ challenge his powerful shot went straight through the dive of David Forde who was beaten at his near post.
Pompey responded with Gary Roberts and Milan Lalkovic both brought off the bench in the search for a second equaliser.
But with 20 minutes left to play the hosts wrapped the game up with Marquis again on the scoresheet - this time hammering home from close range following Rowe’s deflected cross.
Lalkovic should have provided the Blues with a way back into things with 13 minutes left to play but he failed to head past Marosi when unmarked inside the area.
Fellow sub Conor Chaplin then saw his goalbound effort cleared by Alcock after Marosi spilled a cross and was injured in the process.
But try as they might Pompey could not find a way back into the game, despite seven minutes of added time, as they failed to close a four-point gap to the automatic-promotion places.