Cobblers moved a point closer towards securing their EFL future for another season after a truly dreadful goalless draw with Crawley Town on Saturday.
A flat atmosphere at the PTS Academy Stadium was matched by a flat, scrappy and desperately low-quality 90 minutes of football, with Town way off their best throughout.
The hosts created the clearer opportunities but failed to take them and never once did they find any fluency or apply a sustained spell of pressure in a disappointing home display, and fans let their frustrations known with boos at full-time.
Injuries to Jordan Turnbull and Shay Facey forced manager Keith Curle to switch systems and return to a four-man defence with Charlie Goode slotting in at right-back.
This time opting for 4-2-3-1, Timi Elsnik and Joe Powell were back in the starting line-up and played in advanced roles behind lone striker Sam Hoskins.
There were a couple of nearly moments at either end early on but it wasn’t until the 20-minute mark when the game briefly opened up and each side had a clear chance to break the deadlock.
Crawley were first to threaten as David Buchanan cleared off the line from Tom Dallison’s header before home stopper David Cornell easily kept out Joe McNerney’s follow-up attempt.
The Cobblers replied straightaway, Jack Bridge released down the inside left channel and clipping in a cross for John-Joe O’Toole who couldn’t keep his half-volley down, skewing over with the goal gaping.
Hoskins was unable to hit the target from a tight angle after the ball bounced about in Crawley’s box and Elsnik hooked Ash Taylor’s long throw narrowly over, but there was not much else to shout about in a low-quality and, at times, hard-to-watch opening 45 minutes.
Set-pieces remained the game’s most likely source of an opening goal in the second-half as Taylor headed over at the back post while Cornell was out in a flash to block Ollie Palmer’s low effort.
Opposite number Glenn Moriss was given his first - and only - true test on the hour-mark when sticking out a big left hand to tip Powell’s well-struck shot around the post.
Palmer went close for a second time when seeing a shot blocked by Taylor, but the second-half continued to be error-strewn and plagued by basic mistakes.
Powell had home fans celebrating but his free-kick hit the wrong side of the net while Dominic Poleon almost snatched it in the final minute, Cornell pulling off a smart stop to at least ensure the Cobblers didn’t suffer the ignominy of defeat.
Cobblers: Cornell, Goode, Taylor, Pierre, McWilliams, Buchanan, Elsnik (Roberts 72), O’Toole, J Powell (A Williams 84), Bridge, Hoskins (Morias 90)
Subs not used: Coddington, J Williams, Bowditch, D Powell
Crawley: Morris, Young, McNerney, Poleon, Francomb, Dallison, Sesay, Bulman, Morais (c) (Payne 69), Camara, Palmer.
Subs not used: Mersin, Nathaniel-George, Maguire, Willock, N’Gala
Referee: Nick Kinseley
Crawley fans: 123