Portsmouth manager Michael Appleton refused to give up hope of survival after watching his side slip to the bottom of the npower Championship table with a 1-0 defeat at Reading.
The Royals moved to within a point of the automatic promotion places courtesy of Noel Hunt's first-half header as Brian McDermott's side recorded a seventh straight win. But the outlook appears bleak for Pompey, who have now gone seven games without a win since entering administration, during which time they have managed only two goals.
The troubled Hampshire outfit failed to test home goalkeeper Adam Federici, and despite looking solid at the back and playing some good football, Appleton admits the lack of a cutting edge is a growing concern after slipping six points from safety. He said: "I'm delighted with the way they played."
He added: "There was nothing in the game. I think there was one opportunity we got punished with. Both goalkeepers never really had anything to do in the game, so it was tight from that point of view.
"The one thing lacking at the minute is that little bit of belief in the final third. That comes when confidence isn't as high as it should be. At the minute it's a difficult scenario for us because of where we are but I asked the players to give me everything and they applied themselves really well.
"I'm convinced and I know the players are still convinced that we've still got a good chance [of staying up]. It's the hardest thing to do in the game - score goals - and that's why people pay millions of pounds for goal scorers. We have to come up with a scenario that helps us start scoring goals, and we will do.
"There are 12 games left and we know how many we have to win to get out of this mess."
Reading manager McDermott was delighted with the grit his side displayed at the back, particularly after getting their noses in front.
"You have to work hard for every single result you get in this league - that was a tough one," he said.
"I'm really pleased [with the back four]. Shaun Cummings has come in and hasn't played for a long time. I thought he was excellent and (we got) another clean sheet. The whole team take a pride in keeping clean sheets and to keep six clean sheets in the last seven games is a credit to the whole team."