Bognor’s promotion dream is over after Dulwich Hamlet beat them with an injury-time winner at the end of a tense play-off semi-final at Nyewood Lane.
Ashley Carew’s free-kick beat the wall and home keeper Grant Smith to break Rocks hearts and leave them empty-handed at the end of a gruelling 65-game season that had seen more highs than lows.
Although Bognor finished well ahead of Dulwich in the Ryman League premier division table over 46 games, most felt this was likely to be a close game between two sides who have played each other regularly in the past few seasons.
The game had a fairly tense start, with the visitors having most of the early possession, although neither keeper was called into serious action in the first 10 minutes.
James Crane caused panic in the Hamlet six-yard box with a clever cross with the outside of his right foot from wide on the left.
Keeper Preston Edwards and a defender got in each other’s way but Connor Tighe couldn’t quite latch on to the loose ball.
Then Stuart Green was close with a shot from just outside the penalty area that beat the keeper but went just the wrong side of the post.
For the most part the Rocks were unable to produce their usual brand of passing football – though they were at least containing Dulwich’s attacks, which were plentiful.
Visiting centre-half Matt Drage almost gave his side an interval lead with a header from a right-sided corner but Smith got down to hold it on the line.
It would have been a disastrous time to concede for the hosts at the end of a tough first half.
Dipo Akinyemi had a golden chance on 58 minutes when a ball from the byline was pulled back to him eight yards from goal, but he scuffed his effort and it was an easy save for Smith to make.
Tighe’s clever pass down the right had Alfie Rutherford battling for the ball by the touchline, but he was pulled up for a foul just as he looked like he’d got the better of his man.
There was drama with 15 minutes to go when Rutherford was sent tumbling in the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
Jason Prior’s spot-kick wasn’t bad but Edwards guessed right and made a superb save.
There was a twist in the tail and it was such a cruel one for Bognor in injury-time when Dulwich scored a late, late winner.
Sub Craig Robson brought down his man – and earned a booking for it – around 25 yards from goal and Carew stepped up to curl it round the wall and into the bottom corner with Smith rooted to the spot.
At the end of a 65-game season, the Rocks were left with nothing to show for their considerable efforts.
Football, like life, just isn’t fair sometimes.
In last night’s other play-off semi-final, East Thurrock United beat Tonbridge Angels 2-0.
Rocks: Smith, Nilsen, Crane, Tuck, El-Abd, Field, Green, Beck, Prior, Rutherford, Tighe. Subs: Pearce, Charman, Parsons, Wollers, Robson