HASTINGS United suffered a late knockout blow to lose 1-0 at home to Lewes on Boxing Day.
The U’s had looked as though they might escape with a point after hanging on for most of this Sussex derby until being floored four minutes from time.
Not long after being reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Zac Attwood for the second of two yellow cards, Hastings were finally breached when substitute Michael Malcolm headed home an inviting cross from Albert Jarrett.
Already aggrieved at the sending-off, the U’s felt they should have been awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time when Lee Carey appeared to be bundled over in the Lewes box but nothing was given.
The fact that this was a major talking point rather than merely incidental was due to Lewes’ failure to turn their first half domination into goals.
Ian Draycott was guilty of missing an absolute sitter from inside the six yard box in the very first minute, while Harry Harding had a shot deflect just wide and moments before half time saw his header come back off the inside of the post.
Hastings changed their formation for the second half and came a little more into the game as it became more stretched.
Lewes still looked the more likely and Malcolm had an effort ruled offside before Harding’s latest attempt was held by Matt Armstrong-Ford.
The home side had their first genuine effort on goal in the 77th minute but Ben Davisson’s shot from the top of the box flashed wide.
Five minutes later Attwood was given his marching orders when his high foot on an opponent was deemed deliberate rather than - as it appeared - accidental. The Hastings striker’s cause wasn’t helped by one of the Lewes players running over to remind the referee he had already been booked.
Whether the extra man played any real part in the only goal is uncertain but there can be no denying Lewes - for whom Christian Nanetti starred down the flanks - were fully deserved winners in circumstances that were more controversial than they should have been.
Hastings: Armstrong-Ford, Dixon, Sutton, Carey, Manning, Jirbandey, Barham ( Whitehead 65), Crellin, Medlock (Pogue 73), Attwood, Davisson. Subs not used: Hopkinson, Gonsalves.
Lewes: Banks, Hamilton, Ciardini, Somner (Booth 73), Robinson, Hustwick, Stavrinou, Harding, Draycott (Malcolm 59), Jarrett, Nanetti. Sub not used: Kamara.
Referee: Matt Eva (Tongham). Attendance: 689.