Reports Dan Deakins...
City were on top all through the first half, going 2-0 up in 11 minutes through an Amos Nasha screamer and Rhys Murphy.
St Albans flew out of the traps in the second half, with Gabriel scoring two penalties in five minutes and adding two more in the subsequent 15 minutes.
"I wish we could have gone home at half time", said a frustrated Rod Stringer, "it's unbelievable. It's unbelievable to see what we were like for 45 minutes: probably the best 45 minutes since I've been at the club, football-wise.
"The crowd was buzzing, it was unbelievable. I don't think I've been involved in a game where I've seen it such high standard and then go to such a low standard.
"These boy have got to learn quick, or I'm going to have to change it around. I find some of it lazy mindset, also I find it that some of these boys need to step up and make their fitness levels better."
Chris Whelpdale went extremely close to opening the scoring within four minutes. The winger cut in from the right on his left foot and powered a fierce shot just past the right hand post
It was Whelpdale again with a good chance a few minutes later. Amos Nasha's cross fell to the midfielder in the middle of the box and his goal-bound effort was blocked by a trio of diving Saints players.
From a corner, Chelmsford were desperately unlucky not to score, and were in fact just a handful of inches away, as Robert Swaine hit the crossbar with a shot from close range.
Nasha smashed City into the lead in the ninth minute after a period of sustained pressure. The central midfielder picked up the ball from around 25 or 30-yards out, took a touch, and rocketed the ball into the top corner for his first Chelmsford goal.
The Clarets were swift to capitalise on their early dominance with a second goal inside three minutes of the restart, as Murphy slotted home past Dean Snedker from Tom Wraight's ball through the St Albans defence.
Murphy nearly made it 3-0 with 20 minutes played, but his right foot shot flew wide.
Nathan McDonald was called to action for the first time just after the 20 minute mark, as Gabriel broke through City's back line. The Chelmsford goalkeeper was sharp though, and was quick off his line to make a smart save at the feet of the big St Albans number nine.
Saints' captain, Solomon Sambou, had a speculative effort from some 25-yards in the 28th minute, but McDonald watched as it went safely past his left hand post. It was a case in point of St Albans looking shell-shocked and bereft of ideas.
Chelmsford's sumptuous build-up play in the 37th minute was almost enough to score a stunning team goal. Murphy broke on the counter-attack, and in inadvertently treading on the ball, passed to Whelpdale. Whelpdale lent it to Nasha, who passed beautifully to Wraight on the opposite flank. After a brief pause in tempo, Chelmsford worked it to Church on the edge of the box, and his finessed, curling short landed on the roof of Snedker's goal.
For the first time in a month, Chelmsford went in at half time at home with the lead. Their play had merited it, with neat passing play and clinical finishing.
Khale Da Costa earned St Albans a penalty within moments of the second half getting under way, as Elliot Omozusi brought down the striker on the left hand side of the 18-yard-box. Gabriel stepped up and slotted home to give his side a lifeline in the match.
Spillane's vicious reply almost took the home side back to a two goal advantage. The holding midfielder received the ball on the edge of the box and thumped it goal ward, drawing a good save from Snedker who pushed it over the bar.
The Saints were gifted another penalty barely five minutes after the first, as Omozusi again brought down Da Costa. Gabriel calmly put the ball into the opposite corner to the first.
Gabriel notched his hat-trick in the 64th minute. Sambou's long range shot cannoned off the under side of the bar and it fell perfectly for Gabriel who simply nodded in from less than one-yard.
Not content with getting to 3-2, St Albans quickly added a fourth through their hat-trick hero, Gabriel, in the 67th minute. The striker found space on the right side of the box and fired past McDonald.
Into the last 20 minutes and in an attempt to reduce the deficit, Murphy launched a speculative shot while running full pelt at the Saints' goal. Unsurprisingly, it sailed over the bar, and much like City's recent play, lacked direction and purpose.
St Albans nearly had a fifth with a ferocious counter-attack. Whelpdale lost the ball on halfway and all of a sudden it was four Saints players running at two Clarets defenders. Da Costa squared to Ben Herd whose shot hit the far post.
Scott Fenwick's fluff on 78 minutes summed up the Clarets' second half. The striker intended to simply slot an easy shot into the net from five yards, but instead mishit it and it trundled harmlessly towards Snedker.
Spillane had yet another ferocious effort go just wide in the 82nd minute. With his first try he hit a defender, and with the rebound he hit a strong half volley past the left hand post.
Spillane seemed the only striking outlet for City in the last 10 minutes, making Snedker work on many occasions, the latest a driven low effort which was saved well down low to his right at the near post.
With three minutes of normal time remaining, Murphy put Wraight in down the left of the box but the winger's shot flew awfully high. It was the latest in a catalogue of chances that Chelmsford should have converted, and had they done, would have rescued the game and maybe even won.
Five minutes were added on, and you could feel the nervousness around Melbourne Community Stadium: hoping to maybe score one or two, but dreading the thought of St Albans netting a fifth.
St Albans hung on though, and resigned Chelmsford to a third home game in a month without a win.