ROTHERHAM United took a step nearer relegation as they lost out 4-3 in their Championship clash at Swansea City.
The Millers fought gamely and led 2-1 at the break at the Liberty Stadium.
But a Swans fightback condemned them to defeat and, with rivals Wigan Athletic pulling off a shock win at Leeds United, Paul Warne's third-from-bottom men are now three points off a survival place with only three matches left to save themselves.
The outlook is even bleaker as the team just above them, Millwall, have a game in hand.
The Millers, knowing what was at stake, had a flurry of late chances but the equaliser just wouldn't come.
Earlier in the afternoon, they took a tenth-minute lead that stemmed from one of their regular sources of danger, a long throw by Vaulks.
The ball was cleared only as far as Joe Mattock who fed Vaulks on the left touchine and the midfielder's cross was glanced home by Michael Ihiekwe.
Swansea were close to an equaliser on 29 minutes when Connor Roberts' goalbound poke was deflected off target and from the ensuing corner Mike van der Voorn headed just wide.
A corner was their route back into the game after 36 minutes when Oli McBurnie rose to power home a header.
However, Rotherham needed only two minutes to take the lead again as Crooks scored his second goal in two games with a wonderful twisting volley that found the corner of the net.
The midfield man was close to a third in the 42nd minute when a fine save from Nordfeldt kept out his header.
The Millers found themselves pegged back for a second time by a free header when Barrie McKay nodded home soon after the interval.
Only an heroic stop and block from Marek Rodak and Crooks respectively stopped Daniel James from giving Swansea the lead as Zak Vyner lay injured on the turf just past the hour.
But the Millers fell behind amid huge controversy when George Byers' shot looked to take a final touch off Kyle Naughton on the way into the net.
Rotherham's players and bench made frantic appeals for a handball that ended with coach Matt Hamshaw being booked and the goal still standing.
With their season on the line, the visitors attacked and another Crooks header was kept out by a superb save before Vaulks headed over.
The Swans looked to have killed the game in the 79th minute when McBurnie fired in his second, but Vaulks slammed in a volley off the underside of the bar on 83 minutes to give Rotherham late hope.
In added time, Michael Smith saw his shot saved, Anthony Forde fired over and Vaulks' shot called Nordfeldt into action again.
But there was to be no dream ending on a day when Wigan's success at Elland Road turned events into a Millers nightmare.
Swansea (4-2-3-1): Kristoffer Nordfeldt; Connor Roberts, Mike van der Hoorn, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Kyle Naughton; Jay Fulton, Matt Grimes; Barrie McKay, Oli McBurnie, Daniel James; Wayne Routledge. Unused: Steven Benda, Nathan Dyer, Joel Asoro, Declan John.
Subs: George Byers (for Fulton, H-T), Joe Rodon (for McKay, 75), Courtney Baker-Richardson (for Routledge, 88).
Rotherham (4-1-4-1): Marek Rodak; Zak Vyner, Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Semi Ajayi; Jon Taylor, Will Vaulks, Matt Crooks, Anthony Forde; Michael Smith. Unused: Lewis Price, Richard Wood, Ryan Williams, Ben Wiles, Joe Newell, Kyle Vassell.
Subs: Richie Towell (for Ajayi, 57), Ryan Williams (for Taylor, 79), Ben Wiles (for Crooks, 81).
Goals: McBurnie 36, 79, McKay 50, Naughton 62 (Swansea); Ihiekwe 10, Crooks 38, Vaulks 83 (Rotherham).
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).
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