Chris Hargreaves' Torquay side lost 1-0 for a fourth consecutive game, with Scunthorpe United emerging victorious as they made it 25 matches unbeaten on Saturday.
Sam Winnall's first-half penalty kept the visitors in the title hunt by drawing them level with Rochdale at the summit, and Torquay's misery was compounded by Jayden Stockley's late red card.
Northampton, though, have an altogether more positive outlook on things after Chris Hackett's fourth-minute goal saw them run out 1-0 winners at Accrington Stanley.
The gap to safety remains at three points but a host of other sides have been brought right back in to the relegation shake-up as a result of Northampton's triumph.
Among those are an out-of-form Hartlepool United side, who could yet suffer back-to-back demotions after falling to a fourth straight loss, going down 1-0 against resurgent Portsmouth.
The Fratton Park club have claimed two wins in a row to boost their own survival hopes and now boast a five-point cushion over Northampton.
Wycombe Wanderers are one place above the bottom two but claimed three vital points with a 2-0 home win against 10-man Dagenham and Redbridge, who had Scott Doe sent off in the first half.
Morecambe, who also finished with 10 men following Andrew Fleming's dismissal, will be looking nervously over their shoulders after seeing their winless run extended to six matches as Mansfield Town sealed a 1-0 win on the road.
And Exeter City cannot rest easy yet as a double Devon relegation remains on the cards after their 2-0 loss at in-form Bury.
City were another side to fall foul of disciplinary problems, with Danny Coles given his marching orders at Gigg Lane against a Bury side who have long since moved away from trouble.
A third loss in a row saw Oxford United lose ground in the race for the play-offs, Fleetwood Town emerging victorious at the Kassam Stadium to close the gap on third-placed Chesterfield to three points.
Burton Albion cemented their own spot in the top five with a 1-0 win over Plymouth Argyle, who are now five points behind seventh-placed York City.
Nigel Worthington's men were held to a 0-0 draw at league leaders Rochdale, with Chesterfield drawing 1-1 against Newport County and Southend United winning 2-1 at Cheltenham Town.
AFC Wimbledon and Bristol Rovers played out a goalless draw.
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