BIDEFORD will have home advantage in a crucial month of fixtures.
They slipped 15 points behind St Austell with a 17-6 defeat to the Tribute Western Counties (west) leaders.
But with four of the next five games at their King George's Field home, the table could look very different by Christmas.
Andrew Loosemore, the Bideford captain, said: "If you win your games at home, whatever you get when you play away is a bonus and you are always in with a chance come March and April.
"Out of the next five games, four are at home so the next month will be crucial.
"We have stuttered a bit this season but we're getting to where we want to be playing, which is encouraging."
Loosemore felt Bideford played well enough to win at St Austell but they failed to score a try for the first time in 18 matches.
"It was a good top of the table clash and it's great to be involved in those sorts of games but it was disappointing because we played well enough to win," said Loosemore.
"In a tight game, we didn't take our opportunities and they took theirs, which was the difference. We'll look forward to playing them at home."
Bideford made the stronger start, taking a 3-0 lead through Olly Wickett's penalty and seeing Dave Slee, Sam Olde and James Buckland make breaks through the defence.
St Austell scored the first try, though, ending a period of pressure with Ian Venner, the centre, slicing through. Matt Shepherd converted.
Bideford thought they had regained the lead shortly before half time when Wickett's chip kick was touched down by Olde, only for the referee to penalise them for offside.
"It's the ref's decision but it was definitely touch and go," said Loosemore.
"We could have been two or three tries clear at half time but that's rugby. They had a couple of chances and they took them."
The next chance came when St Austell mauled to the line and scrum half Shepherd crashed over, converting his own try from out wide.
There was still the chance of a turnaround when Wickett kicked a long-range penalty, but that was cancelled out by a three-pointer from Shepherd and St Austell controlled the closing stages.
With their rivals in county cup action this weekend, Bideford, who have a bye in the Devon Intermediate Cup, play their game in hand, at home against Kingsbridge, and will hope to go back above Okehampton into second place.
Bude finished strongly but it was not enough to claim a bonus point as they lost 27-12 at Penryn.
With nine defeats from ten games, the Seasiders now have plenty of ground to make up if they are to escape trouble in the Western Counties (west) table.
Penryn were always sharper to the loose ball than the visitors and, until the final half hour when the game was all but gone, Bude's three-quarters had little more than scraps to live on.
By half time the home side had a 17-0 lead with Daniel Booth and Jordan Rose, converted by Jake Seviour who also kicked a penalty.
Eight minutes into the second half, Richy Bray finished a sweeping move from Penryn on the right wing.
Sending on Richie Dicker and Barry Lucas up front gave Bude some renewed drive and Dicker went over from a 56th-minute lineout.
Penryn replied with a bonus-point try through Dan Laity.
Playing for pride, Bude scored a second try when Dan Pearce chipped to Richie Herzog on the right wing who tapped back for Duncan Tout to touch down. Pearce converted from the touchline.