A goal four minutes into added time shattered the hopes of Cambridge supporters as the Reds lost 1-0 to Franklin United in the Lotto NRFL second division.
Both teams had their chances to score but the game seemed to be heading for a goalless stalemate when Franklin’s Jake McCoy found the winner with time almost up.
Such is the closeness of competition in the division, the loss shuffled Cambridge from equal top to sixth place on the table.
The top six are within three points of each other, indicating the rest of the season is going to be nerve-wracking.
Cambridge went into the match without leading scorer Josh Clarkin (glandular fever), veteran Patrick Woodlock (leg injury) and midfielder Harry Wicks (injury) but the rejigged line-up looked confident from the start and shaded their opposition in the first half.
Even when Cambridge lost defender Daniel Clarkin to a back injury half an hour in, the Reds controlled most of the possession and kept their shape well.
The Reds had the best chance of the half when winger Callum MacLeod lashed an angled shot goalwards only for United goalkeeper Jason Mann to tip it over the bar.
In the second spell, Franklin relied on the counter-attack, soaking up Cambridge pressure and trying to break quickly.
But the Cambridge defence, anchored by Jack Portegys, stayed firm and midfielders Marcelo Sosa and Levi Clark caused Franklin plenty of problems with their ability to feed balls to widemen Zach Mayo and MacLeod.
Substitute Dylan Blair created a chance from close after 75 minutes when he spun and shot against the Franklin crossbar.
Minutes later, Franklin broke and hit the post.
Neither team settled for the draw and pushed players forward, each going close with half-chances.
But it was McCoy who had the final say, scoring at the death, and taking the competition points back to South Auckland.
Next Saturday (July 6), Cambridge play Greenhithe Catimba in Auckland (reserves k/o 12.30pm, first teams 3pm).
Main photo: Cambridge’s Callum MacLeod cuts in from the wing.
Today’s mascots and ball boys
Thanks to the young Cambridge players who helped at today’s match.
More photo galleries
Lotto NRFL second division results
Played Friday 28 June
Metro FC 3 (Mario Aroca 19’, 75’, OG 43’)
Greenhithe Catimba 0
Played Saturday 29 June
Claudelands Rovers 1 (Maronga Ngungambili 49’)
Oratia Utd 0
Cambridge FC 0
Franklin Utd 1 (Jake McCoy 90+4’)
Manurewa AFC 6 (Philip Paul 36’, 37’, Troy Christophers 53’, Jamie Birch 85’, OG 88’, Samuel Hart 90+1’)
Ngongotaha AFC 0
Northland FC 0
Unimount Bohemian Celtic 1 (Leo Shin 87’)
Onehunga Mangere Utd AFC 4 (Rinal Prasad 9’, 83’, Salesh Kumar 44’, 70’ – PEN)
Albany Utd 6 (Daniel Campbell 15’, Marc Porter 22’, 33’, Jack Beguely 31’, 34’, Brodie Poole 80’)
Cambridge Reserves beat Franklin United 4-3 in the early game at John Kerkhof Park.