At 5.05pm the dejected Forfar squad trudged on to the Station Park pitch to applause from a handful of hardy fans as they picked up their Player of the Year awards.
In the space of less than three months, Forfar had thrown away an 11-point lead at the top and now have to pick themselves up for a play-off clash with yesterday’s opponents Annan.
Goals from Peter Watson, Max Wright, Smart Osodolar and substitute Aiden Smith for the Borders side and two in reply through Michael Travis and Thomas O’Brien, consigned Forfar to defeat.
That sealed their title fate and left manager Gary Bollan dejected. “I’m absolutely lost for words,” said the former St Johnstone defender. “I can’t believe we haven’t won the league. This is the lowest I’ve felt in my managerial career. It’s very hard to take given how long we led the league.
“But the boys can’t afford to dwell on it. We had two chances to get promoted and now it’s down to one that we have to take.”
With Forfar needing a win to stop Arbroath’s title party, they piled the pressure on Annan in search of an early goal.
In fairness, had they been on their game in the past two months, the party streamers would have already been swept up from Station Park with preparations already in place for life in League 1.
But the Red Lichties were odds-on to clinch the silverware and those odds shortened even further by 3.05pm. In what looked like being a pivotal 60 seconds, former Arbroath star Gavin Swankie had an effort ruled offside for Forfar and their Angus rivals took the lead in Stirling through Martin Scott.
Then Station Park fell into a deathly silence when Watson slid home from six yards. Worse was to follow for the hosts with two goals in two minutes from Wright and Osadolar appearing to kill their championship hopes stone dead.
Forfar hauled a goal back with Travis scrambling in from close range and made it 3-2 through O’Brien’s header.
However, Annan delivered a crushing blow as substitute Smith stroked home a David McKenna pass to set up a two-leg play-off clash between the sides.