Ten-man Hawks crashed out of the FA Trophy in disappointing fashion with a 3-1 defeat against Harlow Town at Westleigh Park.
The hosts were left with a mountain to climb when striker Jason Prior was sent off just before half-time.
To their credit, the Hawks refused to give up without a fight and had chances to force a replay.
Once again, though, Lee Bradbury was left bemoaning his side’s inability to make it count when dominating proceedings.
His side could easily have been three goals to the good before things went wrong on the stroke of half-time.
‘We were in total control until five minutes before half-time,’ he said.
‘There were real opportunities but their keeper was man of the match – making two or three good saves to keep them in the game.
‘Then we had a disastrous few minutes before the break which cost us.
‘When Jason got sent off we found ourselves with our backs to the wall until getting in at half-time.
‘It was totally out of character from Jason. He just made a bad decision and all footballers do that from time to time.
‘He just dived in and their lad has nicked the ball away. It looked a lot worse than it was.
‘It was frustrating for him and the rest of the team.’
Having already beaten Harlow 5-2 in the league this season, the Hawks set off showing the intent to inflict another heavy defeat on the Essex visitors.
Dan Strugnell, playing his 200th game for the club, sent an early header looping against the crossbar.
The Hawks were in total command, with Prior – who scored four goals in the first meeting – causing problems.
It took a terrific point-blank save from the Harlow keeper on 20 minutes to keep out his close-range header.
Despite their dominance, the Hawks fell behind five minutes before half-time. Layne Eadie curled in a free-kick from the right and a defensive blunder allowed the ball to sneak in at the far post.
Prior, who had earlier been booked for a scything challenge, then picked up a second yellow card.
It looked all over for the home side when Harlow extended their lead early in the second half.
However, the Hawks refused to give up and on 55 minutes an Alfie Rutherford header gave them a lifeline
‘In the second half, we changed the formation, went for it and the lads were brilliant.
‘We took the game to them with a man less and created even more opportunities.
‘When we got back to 2-1 I fancied our chances of getting something but then a mistake killed us off at the end.
‘By going positive we caused them a lot of problems and could have won it.’
Substitute James Hayter crashed a shot against the upright and was then denied by another superb Hughes save.
With the Hawks pushing for the equaliser Harlow counter-attacked to seal their passage in stoppage-time.
Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Molyneaux, Harris, Williams, Lewis, Robinson (Tarbuck, 74min), Barker (Stock, 46min), Swallow (Hayter, 46min), Prior, Rutherford. Att: 197
n Cash-strapped Gosport Borough earned £4,000 for beating Hungerford Town 1-0 in the FA Trophy.
A first-half Chris Flood goal proved enough to earn Borough a much-needed boost to their coffers.