Horndean put up their best home display of the season but it was still not good enough to help them secure victory over National League division two south title contenders Richmond.
They lost 3-1 to the former division one outfit in a match that had spiking and blocking at its best.
It was the Deans’ 10th loss of the season and they now have four games left to avoid relegation.
Priory School has not been a happy hunting ground for the Deans, who are yet to taste victory on home turf.
Their only two wins so far have come at Southampton and Malory Eagles II.
Despite the loss, the Deans remain in seventh place with 15 points – one ahead of their Chichester-based rivals Arun-VC, who have a game in hand.
Player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba believes his side have learned plenty about what will be required over the coming weeks.
He said: ‘I can take some positives out of the Richmond game because I thought for a big period of it we had them under pressure.
‘I thought the way we played in the first three sets was really pleasing.
‘It was the best match we’ve played so far at Priory.
‘We gave a good account of ourselves in both the second and third sets but in the end they were more clinical.
‘Apart from league leaders Cardiff, not many teams have had that opportunity to take as many points from second-placed Richmond as we did.
‘Although they were at times dominant, we kept fighting to the end.
‘It was a great achievement when you take into consideration we are developing a team which has many key, senior players ruled out either due to work commitments or through injuries.
‘We’ve had a different team out for every match so far this season, which is not a good thing. But there is nothing we can do other than stick together.’
It was the visitors who won the opening set 25-18.
But the Deans bounced back to level 25-23, with setter Matthew Jackson and middle players Samuel Sawicki and Mark Byerley doing most of the damage.
Richmond responded with a 25-22 third set win, before sealing victory 25-17, thanks to Horndean’s failure to contain their opponents’ jump-float serves.
Willard Hans Shongue was man of the match.
The Deans’ next game is on Saturday, March 19 against Wessex M2 at Priory School (12.30pm).