Just when they needed the platform, it crumbled beneath their feet.
So much of Hampshire’s success in this year’s Friends Life t20 has rested on the shoulders of Michael Carberry, James Vince and Neil McKenzie.
But in a do-or-die game, their luck was out.
The prolific trio were quickly back on the bench with their side in trouble at 38 for three.
Sean Ervine (47) batted manfully to drag the Royals to 142 for nine.
But it never looked like being enough and so it proved as Surrey claimed a four-wicket victory with four balls to spare.
Hampshire might have known it was not going to be their day when Carberry (six) slashed to Jason Roy after Azhar Mahmood (two for nine) had already pinned him down with a rare maiden over.
Vince (13) took a wild swipe as Jade Dernbach (two for 32) dismissed him.
And when McKenzie (five) was adjudged lbw to Dernbach, even though he was way down the pitch, the Royals were staring down the barrel.
Ervine picked up the baton, playing himself in and the upping the run-rate but wickets continued to fall around him.
Jimmy Adams (19) was cleaned up by Zander de Bruyn, Liam Dawson (eight) picked out a fielder and Adam Wheater (two) was trapped lbw playing one of the most ill-advised reverse sweeps you will see.
When Ervine picked out the man in the deep, the Royals turned to Dimi Mascarenhas to save them.
It looked like the stage was set for the former England man in his final game as skipper.
But not only did he run out Chris Wood (12) when the left-armer had smashed a four and a six from his first two deliveries, the captain then got himself out with the very next ball – hoisting Mahmood down the throat of former Royals man Glenn Maxwell.
At 142 for nine, the total looked at least 25 runs short of par and most were predicting a Surrey stroll.
But Royals hopes were lifted with two wickets in the power play as Mascarenhas (one for 24) and Wood (two for 40) made inroads.
And the game was still in the balance when Maxwell (26) departed to leave his side at 71 for four after 10 overs.
While de Bruyn (41 not out) held his team togather, Hampshire stayed in the game and even closed in on a famous win with two wickets in the 17th over.
McKenzie took a quite briilant diving catch racing back as the ball arrived over his shoulder before Mahmood was run out.
Needing 18 runs off the last 12 balls, it was up for grabs.
But Wood – the hero of 12 months ago in Cardiff – experienced the other side of death bowling as he allowed Ansari (21 not out) to plunder 15 runs and effectively finish the job there and then.
Three more runs duly followed and Hampshire’s crown had slipped away.
– STEVE WILSON