Published: 16:45, 16 April 2016
Ebbsfleet's title hopes were effectively ended at Gander Green Lane on Saturday.
They were well-beaten by promotion rivals Sutton, who are now three points clear at the top of National League South with a game in hand.
Fleet only have one match left so Sutton require just a single point from their last two fixtures in order to be crowned champions, leaving Daryl McMahon's side - who led the table for seven months - staring at a second play-off campaign in three seasons.
Injury ruled out Kenny Clark so Anthony Acheampong was drafted in to partner captain Tom Bonner at the heart of Ebbsfleet's defence.
Sutton came into the game unbeaten in 23 league matches and manager Paul Doswell made two changes from the 2-0 win over Bishop's Stortford which sent them top of the table on Monday night. In came Dean Beckwith and Bedsente Gomis for Louis John and Craig Dundas.
The visitors made a bright start and enjoyed the best of the opening quarter.
Sean Shields offered a good outlet down the right wing and when Fleet moved the ball wide, he drilled a low shot at goalkeeper Ross Worner.
The lively Matt Godden had one shot blocked and another saved by Worner before Nathan Ashmore dived to his right to push out a deflected Gomis effort.
At the other end, JP Kissock tumbled under the challenge of Jamie Collins in the Sutton box. Fleet wanted a penalty, the home fans felt Kissock had dived but referee Adrian Quelch simply waved play on.
Collins curled a free-kick just wide for the hosts and Godden lashed an effort over the bar after linking well with Stuart Lewis.
But when Tom Bolarinwa got away down the Sutton right, his low cross was touched into the roof of the net by Dan Fitchett at the near post to make it 1-0.
The goal knocked the wind out of Ebbsfleet's sails and Sutton could smell blood.
Bolarinwa and Kevin Amankwaah continued to link well down the right flank and Ross Stearn drove a free-kick over before Bolarinwa beat two man and saw his goalbound shot charged down.
A one-goal deficit at half-time would have been manageable for the Fleet but they fell further behind when Mr Quelch awarded a soft penalty in the second minute of added time.
Fitchett went down under the combined challenge of Bonner and Van den Bogaert and Gomis stepped up to send Ashmore the wrong way.
McMahon sent Anthony Cook on for the second half a second change soon followed, with Matt Fish replaced by Joe Howe.
Van den Bogaert dug out a fine cross from the byline and Kedwell headed goalwards but Worner made a straightforward save.
It should have been 3-0 moments later. Fleet left Fitchett unmarked at the back post but he headed over from a left-wing cross with the goal at his mercy.
Ebbsfleet became increasingly ragged. Stearn stormed past Howe and his low cross caused panic in the penalty area before the ball was hacked clear.
Jordan Parkes' poor free-kick was easily cleared and Sutton almost added a third goal on the counter-attack. Fitchett ran on to a neat through-ball and was about to round Ashmore when the flag went up for offside.
The game was up now and the majority of the 3,142 crowd started celebrating on the terraces while frustrated Fleet never looked like producing a late fightback.
Worner pushed a Parkes long shot to safety and that was all the visitors could muster.
Sutton: Worner, Amankwaah (John 78mins), Spence, Beckwith, Eastmond, Collins, Bolarinwa, Gomis (Dundas 72mins), Bailey, Fitchett (McAllister 85mins), Stearn. Subs not used: Gerrar, Slabber.
Ebbsfleet: Ashmore, Fish (Howe 54mins), Van den Bogaert (McLean 79mins), Lewis, Acheampong, Bonner, Kissock (Cook 46mins), Parkes, Kedwell, Godden, Shields. Subs not used: Sheringham, Miles.
More by this authorSteve Tervet