The dream is over, Ballarat City left to regret a disappointing two-minute spell as it bowed out of the FFA Cup at the hands of FC Clifton Hill, 3-2.
Adam Grinholz's men started hot against its state league opponents, breaking the deadlock midway through the first half.
City would switch off, however, conceding two goals in as many minutes, leaving the hosts chasing the game for the rest of the night.
"We actually started the game pretty well," coach Adam Grinholz said.
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"We started the game on top. We were patient at that led to the first goal. It went exactly as we planned.
"Unfortunately, though, after we scored the goal, we didn't stick to playing with the same kind of intensity or rhythm.
"It's a Cup game; you don't get second chances. We're out now, and it sucks.
"We wanted to go through and make it an amazing experience, and we couldn't."
City started in its usual 4-3-3 set-up, young midfielder Jordan Lauton offering a vital link between the defence and his attacking midfield partners.
Lauton was the conductor of most of City's most promising attacks and played his attackers into threatening positions with ease in the opening stages.
The final shot always eluded City until midway through the first half when a Ronaldino Salvetore effort from the top of the box hit the back of the net after taking a deflection off the defender.
City didn't lie still, charging forward but unable to break down a defensive-minded opponent.
A defensive lapse would ultimate costs the hosts after a sustained period of pressure resulted in an equaliser.
Clifton Hill - who played a step below City in the Victorian football pyramid - turned a succession of corners into a threatening cross which City could only clear as far as the top of its box.
The visitor's centre back calmly took it down on his chest, composed himself and smashed the half-volley past the keeper.
"We made a poor clearance. You can't just head the ball out to the top of the box," Grinholz said.
"Now, with the score 1-1 we gave the momentum. Up until that point that they were lacking energy and struggling to get themselves into the game.
City would lose possession quickly from the re-start, and were back on their heels after a long ball split the defence.
Clifton Hill's striker poked the chance past a helpless Sami Regague in goal, allowing the visitors to park the bus for the rest of the night.
The defensive wall pushed City into a route-one style of play, with its centre-backs continually look to play the ball over their opponent's backline.
A Clifton Hill goal against the run of play with 15 minutes to go only seemed to force the City defence into trying more hit and hope through balls.
"Space was limited, and we didn't deal with it well enough," Grinholz said.
"We went long too often from back to front, which was frustrating. You don't need to score straight away, we just needed one goal in 15 minutes.
"But that's a learning experience for young players to be in that situation."
City was able to claw one back through right-back Huri Mwarabu, who shone in his first senior start for the club.
"He was brilliant defensively, one-and-one and covering," Grinholz said.
"The strike for the goal; in those conditions to hit a volley like that from edge of the box was a ripper."
The hosts controlled possession to close the game but couldn't break down Clifton Hill.
One last chance to equalise came in the dying stages of stoppage time, only for a strike from a tight angle to flash wide of the post and confirm City's Cup exit.
"We shouldn't be losing to a State League 1 team but it's a learning experience," Grinholz said.
"We have to understand how to play from behind and we certainly improved in this game compared to others.
"We fought back. We got the goal and we pushed forward.
"We didn't always play in the smartest way but we still put pressure on them."
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