Whitby Town’s opponents Ramsbottom claimed victory with their final touch of the game amid furious claims for handball, in a titantic FA Trophy tie on Saturday.
For Town to exit a national cup at the first hurdle for a fourth successive time, missing out on £2,700, is galling enough.
But the manner and timing of the 94th minute winner really shook player-boss Darren Williams.
“I don’t think we deserved to lose, I think we’ve done enough in the second half to win the game,” he told the Whitby Gazette.
“In my view, it was offside – if it had been onside then we’d have been beaten by a good and well-taken goal, but that wasn’t the case.
“We just have to battle on, we can’t whinge about it because things can’t be changed after mistakes are made.”
Williams kept faith with the side that beat Nantwich 3-1 a week earlier as talismanic centre-half Kev Burgess again failed a fitness test on his Achilles injury.
After a cagey opening, that the visitors deservedly led inside 15 minutes. Gary Stopforth’s terrific outside of the foot pass found an unmarked Grant Spencer with only goalkeeper Shane Bland to beat.
The composed playmaker rounded the youngster and despite the outstanding efforts of Ibby Hassan on the line, squeezed the ball home from close range.
Town’s brave makeshift central defender suffered a painful injury as he slid in and ended up straddling the near post, requiring lengthy treatment, but limped back into the action.
Frontman Jordan Hulme then had a great opportunity to double the lead, but blazed wastefully over the crossbar when two on two.
Backed by a noisy support, the away team – fourth in Whitby’s NPL Premier –were punished by Town’s first shot on goal with 32 minutes gone.
Liam Shepherd again showed his versatility, drifting onto the right flank, cut inside and curled a pinpoint cross to the far post where Dave McTiernan outjumped goalkeeper Grant Shenton and headed into the opposite corner for his eighth goal of the season.
Bland did well to smother low to his right from the nippy Phil Dean’s close-range drive but Town should have done better when neat play from Matty Waters released strike partner Steve Snaith, who could only turn a tame low effort straight at Shenton.
Early in the second half, Shepherd did well to poke the ball off Dean’s boot and behind as the diminutive wide player prepared to pull the trigger from close range.
At the other end, Shenton had to dive full-length to his right to push wide Shepherd’s drilled shot.
Hulme wasted another great chance for the visitors who found themselves three on three against Town’s backline, on 66 minutes, before Blues proved equally profligate in front of goal.
Snaith did the right thing when he slammed across the face from the left, but no home player could get a touch.
Lee Mason then blasted way too high from just inside the box and Snaith was equally wayward with an off-balance 20-yarder from his right foot.
Even so, it was Waters who made way for Craig Farrell in a straight swap up front for Whitby, while Ramsbottom threw strike duo Lee Gaskell and Jon Robinson in a switch to three forwards.
The Rams’ third striker Hulme then forced Bland to tip over a downward header from Lee Pugh’s inswinging right-wing corner.
Seconds later and the ex-Middlesbrough stopper repeated the dose to keep out third substitute Joel Pilkington’s edge of the box effort.
The first of what most home followers would consider clear offside calls not given then occurred near the right flank, two minutes from time. Pilkington raced clear on goal, only for Bland to save terrifically with his legs before blasting the linesman for keeping his flag down.
Town sub Craig Farrell could have put them ahead two minutes into added time.
Mason provided the perfect right-wing cross but the ex-York marksman struggled to direct his back post header .
The match was into its 94th minute when the killer blow was struck.
Midfielder Scott Burton intercepted a loose ball and quickly crossed for Gaskell to flick on to Robinson, who notched the winner, to the fury of the home faithful, who vented their anger as the full-time whistle blew.
Whitby Town: Bland, Shepherd, Robinson (c), Bullock, Hassan, McTiernan, Brown (Gardner 82), Hopson, Waters (Farrell 74), Snaith, Mason. Subs not used: Williams, Pell, Campbell (GK).
Co-operative Whitby Town Man of the match: Lee Bullock.
Whitby Town 1 Ramsbottom 2