Worthing Football Club went down 3-2 at home to Hastings United in the Isthmian League Cup fourth round on Wednesday evening (December 5).
Ryman League Division 1 South Rebels more than matched their Premier Division opponents for long periods of the match.
But Hastings, who have their FA Cup second-round replay with Harrogate next week, with the winners travelling to Championship side Middlesbrough, led 2-0 at half-time.
Rebels dominated much of the second half and joint boss Lee Brace counted 14 opportunities that his side created. Worthing did get a goal back, before Hastings went 3-1 ahead with six minutes left.
Rebels made it 3-2 in the last minute and almost forced a penalty shoot-out but Hastings held on to reach the next round.
Hastings took the lead after only three minutes when Jack Dixon’s corner fell to Dee Okojie, who took a touch and half-volleyed into the top corner.
Worthing looked lively going forward, without creating any clear goalscoring chances, and Hastings went 2-0 ahead on 31 minutes when Bailo Camara headed home Jono Richardson’s cross from close range.
It was almost 3-0 moments later but Bradley Goldberg’s crashing 20-yarder came back off the inside of a post.
Rebels went close on 38 minutes when Nick Sullivan got through but he blazed high and wide, with Luke Gedling well-placed in support.
Sullivan then dragged a shot across goal early in the second period, before Worthing got a goal back on 65 minutes when Gedling coolly slotted home after he got through one-on-one.
Rebels then bossed proceedings and Scott Kirkwood’s poke towards goal from Kieron Pamment’s corner was easily saved by Hastings keeper Joe Winchester.
Winchester then produced an outstanding reflex save to deny Chris O’Flaherty as he pushed Rebels’ winger’s shot on to the bar and out for a corner.
Tom Lawley’s low drive from 20 yards was then well saved by Winchester, diving low to his right, before Kirkwood blazed over from Steve Metcalf’s cross.
Hastings caught Rebels on the break to go 3-1 ahead with six minutes to play when Camara squared for Goldberg to side-foot home from eight yards.
Rebels kept going and Charlie Romain curled a shot inches over, before Worthing made it 3-2 in the final minute when sub Paul Mancktelow, making his debut, had his shot parried and O’Flaherty tapped home from a couple of yards.
Rebels nearly forced a penalty shoot-out in injury-time but Mancktelow’s close-range poke goalwards was turned to safety by Winchester.
Worthing joint manager Lee Brace said: “You just can’t give a team a two-goal lead by half-time.
“It was the story of our season in a way. We created all the opportunities but gifted them a two-goal lead.
“We had 14 opportunities in the second half and their keeper made a fantastic save from Chris O’Flaherty.
“But I’m pleased with the boys. They are a quality side and we played some good football.”
WORTHING: Banasco-Zaragoza; Stillwell, Hurley, Hubert; Pamment, Kirkwood, Metcalf, Gedling, O’Flaherty; Lawley, Sullivan. Subs: Romain (Sullivan 71), Lewis (Gedling 82), Mancktelow (Pamment 88), Bryant, James. Att: 104.