A first-half brace from Karl Cameron condemned Dover to a fourth consecutive league defeat.
The Gulls captain was on hand to nod in from visiting stopper Yusuf Mersin’s parry and then headed in a corner on the stroke of half-time.
Andy Hessenthaler’s men fought to find a way back into the match after break, but were unable to find way through a solid United defence.
The loss leaves Whites second from bottom on the National League ladder with three points, however the result may well have been different had Athletic converted a guilt-edged chance five minutes prior to Torquay’s opener.
Steven Rigg tricked his way to the byline and presented TJ Bramble with the goal at his mercy, however the midfielder was unable to convert after getting his feet mixed up.
Athletic had gone close to opening the scoring early in the game when Jack Munns sent a dipping volley the wrong side of the post,
Bayli Spencer-Adams, making his debut for Dover after signing on loan from Watford the previous day, then saw his shot well blocked by the home defence.
Bramble jumped to head Cameron’s bouncing header off the line, but the Dover defence was powerless to stop Torquay’s captain from opening the scoring in the first half.
A corner was well parried by Mersin, only to kindly fall for Cameron, an invitation the centre-back was only too happy to accept as he headed the ball into an empty net, despite Bramble’s attempt to stop the ball from crossing the goal line.
Turkish stopper Mersin then tipped Aaron Nemane’s stinging drive onto the base of the post.
Dover’s mission to stop a run of three straight defeats was dealt a further blow on the stroke of half-time when Cameron headed a set piece into the bottom corner.
And that task was nearly made harder just seconds later, but for Mersin fisting over Adam Randell’s free-kick.
The Turkish goalkeeper continued to repel the Torquay attack, diving onto Danny Wright’s volley after the restart.
The Kent side almost reduced the arrears late on, as home stopper Lucas Covolan tipped Munns’ accurate effort behind for a corner and then grabbed onto Rigg’s header.
Torquay almost sealed the win in injury time, only for a mixture of the woodwork and Mersin to somehow prevent substitute Asa Hall from scoring.
Earlier, Hessenthaler made five changes to the side that started the 5-0 home loss to Aldershot on Tuesday night. Mersin, Spencer-Adams, Kurtis Cumberbatch, Bramble and Josh Passley came in for Josh Bexon, Will Moses, Ade Azeez, Travis Gregory and Marvel Ekpiteta with the latter three all not involved due to injury.
Dover next travel to Yeovil Town in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Qualifying on Saturday 24th October 2020.