A second half capitulation saw Tranmere start the New Year with defeat at Macclesfield – despite leading twice – moving them back down to second in the National League.
First half goals from Steve McNulty and Ritchie Sutton were cancelled out both times by Paul Lewis and with that the pendulum swung in favour of the Silkmen.
Danny Rowe fired the hosts in front with less than 20 minutes to play before Lewis completed his hat-trick and Rovers’ misery from the penalty spot late on.
The result was particularly disappointing given that at an away following of 1,679 had turned out in force to support the Whites in great numbers.
Micky Mellon selected an unchanged side from the one that narrowly defeated the same opposition at Prenton Park on Boxing Day.
An eleventh-minute corner from Ben Tollitt was thumped home by the head of McNulty, sending the Super White Army wild behind the goal.
But as the away fans celebrated Rovers switched off and when a simple through ball released Lewis, the Silkmen midfielder lifted the ball over the onrushing Scott Davies into the net, pulling the hosts level within two minutes.
The visitors were attacking frequently but looking worryingly open when forced to defend on the counter, with Lewis sticking another header over the bar on the half hour mark.
But eight minutes before the break Tranmere were back in front. When Macclesfield failed to clear a free kick from Tollitt, centre back Sutton collected the ball with his back to goal, turned and smashed it into the top corner, wheeling away in delight.
Town had the first chance of the second half when a Rowe corner was headed goal bound by Jack Sampson but Lee Vaughan was alert and nodded it off the line.
The warning wasn’t heeded however and when Mitch Hancox whipped a free kick in on 50 minutes, Lewis soared highest and directed a textbook header into the net for his second equaliser of the day.
Macclesfield were getting too many corners and set pieces and were looking progressively dangerous.
With 18 minutes to play the hosts took the lead when a clearance dropped for Rowe on the edge of the box before he smashed a half volley home.
Tranmere’s misery was complete eight minutes from time when the hosts were awarded a penalty and man of the moment Lewis duly dispatched to cap off the worst possible start to 2017 for Rovers.
Mellon said: “The first half performance – I thought we were very good. The second half we stopped moving with the ball, off the ball.
“When the ball goes forward you’ve got to squeeze up behind it. We became too stretched both between the back four and the front players and the width between the two wide men as well.
“We lose a poor goal from a set play which we’re very disappointed about because we work hard on it in training and people are told who to pick up.
"The disappointing thing is we feel that we’ve let people down today.
“I think it was as good as we’ve played in the first half. We did everything that we knew that we needed to do. When the ball moved forward we moved up the pitch with it.
"But we allowed ourselves to become stretched second half. If you looked at the game again you will see that we’ve got to close their gaps down.
“It’s my responsibility as the manager. You must move with the ball. It’s a basic of football. We will go back to work again this week and get back on track.”
Macclesfield Town 2 Lewis 13, 50, 82 (pen), Rowe 71
Tranmere Rovers 2 McNulty 11, Sutton 37
Half time: 1-2
Star man: Ritchie Sutton (Tranmere centre back).
Attendance: 3,317 (1,679 away)
Ref rating: Thomas Bramall (7/10)
Macclesfield (4-4-2): Ross, Halls, Fitzpatrick (Bell 90), Pilkington, McCombe (Byrne 42), Lewis, Holroyd, Sampson, Rowe, James, Hancox
Subs not used: Boot, Wellens, Perel
Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies, Vaughan, Sutton, McNulty, Ridehalgh, Kirby, Wallace (Maynard 75), Hughes, Kirby (Mekki 64), Norwood, Managan (C Jennings 75)
Subs not used: S Jennings, Turner
Bookings: McCombe, Bell