After the unqualified successes of the Charlie Fleming era the late Sixties and early Seventies saw a major downturn in the clubs fortunes. Three times City found themselves in the Southern League 1st Division and the usual fallback of FA Cup adventure was also missing as they failed to reach the first round proper a single time between 1968 and 1974. During this period managers also came and went at an alarming rate but until the guidance of Bert Head City returned to the Premier Division in 1974 and with the majority of the squad on full-time contracts they were serious contenders for the title the following season. A win at leaders Wimbledon kept alive these hopes until the closing weeks of the season but City couldn't maintain this momentum and finished in 6th place behind the Dons. A 4th Qualifying Round victory over local rivals Yeovil Town also signalled the return of FA Cup success before Wimbledon were again their nemesis in the 1st Round. The following season began with rumours of unrest between the players and manager Head and when City were dumped out of the Cup by Hampshire League side Fareham Town he was replaced by his assistant Jack Smith. Little changed on the pitch though as City finished the season in 16th place just five points off the relegation places.

The 1976-77 season began with a new man in charge - player manager Brian Godfrey. With a number of new arrivals strengthening the side hopes of success were high. Four wins from four boosted these hopes and although there was a disappointing early FA Cup exit at the hands of Western League Barnstaple Town, City lost just two of their opening 19 league matches. However, a poor run in March saw them fade from the championship race and despite a strong finish they ended up in 4th spot. The summer saw City reach the final of the Anglo-Italian Cup, on the way becoming the first English side to taste success in Italy since the competition began three years earlier, beating Parma by a goal to nil through a disputed penalty. This trip paved the way for City's most successful season for nearly 20 years. The foundations of this triumph were laid early on as City did not taste defeat in their opening 29 games. This run was finally ended at Telford in March but another eleven game unbeaten run, including an incredible eight successive matches without concededing a goal, culminated with the side sealing the title by beating AP Leamington 2-0 on Friday 28 April. The club also reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup, before going out in a replay to 3rd Division Plymouth Argyle. Spurred on by these acheivements City headed to the annual meeting of the Football League confident that they could gain election to the professional ranks. They were to be disappointed though as, despite gaining 23 votes (the highest number ever for a club that failed to be elected), they saw Wigan Athletic (who weren't even Northern League champions) take the step up.

Even at the time this blow seemed a defining moment in the history of the club and with the formation of a non-league 'super-league' being proposed it was the closest City would come to gaining league status. The 1977-78 season began with keeper Ken Allen moving to Bournemouth and in January 1978 manager Brian Godfrey left to take over at Exeter City. These departures contributed to a 5th place finish. However, this was enough to earn a place in the 'super-league' which would begin life as the Alliance Premier League.