We suffered a 3-1 defeat at Northampton in the second round of the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday afternoon, despite matching the League Two side during the 90 minutes.
Scott Wharton's third-minute header got us off to the worst possible start and, after looking to have grown into the game, Vadaine Oliver doubled the Cobblers' lead before the break.
Harry Smith came off the bench to add a third inside the final quarter of an hour, before a substitute of our own, Kristian Dennis, netted a consolation with six minutes to play.
Neal Ardley reverted to the side that booked our place in this stage of the competition with victory at Ebbsfleet three weeks ago. That meant Regan Booty returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Sean Shields, who joined Dennis on a seven-man bench.
The boss had spoken ahead of the game about the threat Northampton would pose from set plays, and the first one of the afternoon showed exactly why. Nicky Adams sent a deep corner into the area and Wharton, who had come forward from centre back, rose highest to nod home at the back post.
Booty had the chance to bring us level almost instantly when a Mitch Rose long throw dropped kindly for him 12 yards from goal, but the midfielder didn't get hold of his volley and Steve Arnold made a comfortable save.
Seconds later, Northampton went within a whisker of a second. Sam Hoskins was played in behind our defence and Sam Slocombe was quick off his line to narrow the angle and deny him one-on-one, but the ball rebounded off Ben Turner and looked set to hit the back of our net, only to cannon away off the upright.
It was a lively start to proceedings, with the hosts' aerial threat clear for all to see, and our former striker, Oliver, was next to have sighter when he climbed highest to meet Hoskins' cross on 10 minutes - Slocombe easily held on to the header, though.
Kyle Wootton had the chance to take his tally into double figures for the season when a long ball forward from Turner freed him in behind the Cobblers defence but he scuffed his strike of the bouncing ball and dragged it wide.
We looked to be having some success in fighting fire with fire in terms of getting the ball into the box and Rose's long throws caused issues for the hosts, with Wes Thomas having two openings in quick succession. The first time his touch got away from him after the ball was nodded to him in space at the back post, before he saw a left-footed effort blocked after fastening onto another.
It seemed as though we were getting a foothold in the game but we were left reeling when Oliver doubled the home side's advantage on 25 minutes, heading home Hoskins' left-wing cross.
The wide man was at the root of most things the Cobblers were doing well and he was foiled by Slocombe again on the half-hour after playing a neat one-two to work his way into the area before his low shot was parried clear and put behind.
A flurry of corners followed, culminating with Adams whipping a cross into Jordan Turnbull, who put the ball into the side netting at the front post.
On 36 minutes we went as close as we had done to reducing the arrears, when a short corner was played to Michael Doyle to bend into the area. Connell Rawlinson flicked the ball towards goal and Wootton got there in front of keeper Arnold, but touched it just past the post.
One minute was added on for stoppages, during which Alan McCormack, who had earlier been booked for a show of dissent, struck a speculative half-volley from 30 yards which Slocombe was alert to save. The referee called time on the half moments later.
Shields replaced Booty at the break and almost had an assist to his name on 52 minutes, when he bent in a free-kick which Turner headed over after a strong run from Wootton saw him fouled by Turnbull, who was booked.
Andy Williams completely miscued a free header as the hosts chased a third but it looked like Enzio Boldewijn had halved the deficit on 66 minutes, when he struck well from range after receiving the ball in space, but his effort hit the side netting with Arnold stationary.
We were building up a head of steam and should have made it 2-1 on 68. Rose's long throw was dropped by Arnold and presented Thomas with the chance to head home from 10 yards, but he got too much on it and saw the ball go over the bar.
The striker had another, more difficult, headed opportunity moments later, when Shields whipped a cross in and Thomas looked to glance the ball into the far corner, but his effort went just past the post.
The game was taken out of our reach on 76 minutes, though. The dangerous Hoskins sent a high, hanging ball into the area and substitute Smith got to in front of Slocombe and nodded home the third. Kristian Dennis came on for Thomas in the aftermath.
It could have gotten worse as the clock ticked past 80, with Williams finding space on the edge of the area to draw a smart save out of Slocombe, and Michael Doyle made a goal-line clearance to deny Smith his second.
Dennis' first real involvement was to reward our 1,041 travelling fans with something to cheer when he tapped home the rebound after Boldewijn's cross was parried into his path by Arnold on 84 minutes, and give us the goal our play had deserved.
Nathan Tyson replaced Wootton before play resumed and partnered the scorer in attack.
We could have had another on 87, when Richard Brindley's low cross picked out Dennis around the penalty spot but his first-time effort was pushed away by Arnold.
The striker was involved again as we looked for a second inside the first of four additional minutes, working unselfishly on the wing before finding Brindley, who squared for Boldewijn on the edge of the box. His strike was blocked inside the area, though.
Dennis saw a back-post header come off a Northampton defender as we continued to come on strong in the final moments, but there was not long enough to mount a comeback and we exited the cup at the second round stage.