The Blues’ winning run came to an end with an LFA Challenge Trophy exit to BetVictor top-flight outfit Atherton Collieries.
Phil Brown’s men only defeat in seven games had come in the FA Trophy and their interest in another cup competition ended at their first hurdle as the Colls booked their place in round three.
After Saturday’s 4-0 win over Droylsden had made it five league wins on the spin to stay among the North-West Division’s pace-setters, Brown made two changes to his starting line-up with Ollie Muir and Jake Connelly coming into the side.
And he was forced into a further re-shuffle with half an hour gone when Terry Cummings went off with a hamstring problem.
That reduced the Blues’ attacking threat after they had enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges.
And five minutes later Atherton went ahead in controversial fashion to take control of the tie.
With the linesman flagging for offside, the Blues seemed to stop and Colls striker Tom Bentham swung a hopeful leg at a shot that bobbled into the bottom corner.
Following consultation between the officials and confirmation the final ball had been played by defender Andy Jackson, the goal was given.
And that seemed to draw the sting from the Blues, who had threatened early on through Owen Watkson, Cummings, Colls’ old boy Connor Gaul and defender Thomas Dean, who headed over the top from close range.
Teenager Connelly had also delivered a couple of dangerous balls from the left flank but within a minute of the re-start the visitors had doubled their lead through Ben Hardcastle’s spectacular strike.
That all but signalled the knock-out blow for the Blues, who saw plenty of the ball without being able to force a breakthrough to trigger a comeback.
Bentham then made it 3-0 with half an hour to go as he followed after Connor King had spilled a shot to tap in his second of the night.
And after Charlie Mulgrew had fired wide at the other end, it took a decent save from stand-in skipper King to prevent Jordan Cover adding to his club record tally of goals as the Colls made their superior status count.
Clitheroe: King; Jackson, Foulds, Dean, Muir; Gaul, Carney, Mulgrew, Connelly; Cummings; Watkinson. Substitutes: Dugdale, Gray, Russell.
Atherton Collieries: Hartley, Peet, Sherlock, Lafferty, Thompson, Conway, Brewster (Bailey 60), Bentham (Cover 66), Hardcastle (Lambert 65), O’Brien. Substitutes
Referee: Richard Holmes