Jordan Roberts was sent off just before half time as Aldershot Town blew their Wembley dream in a 4-1 defeat at Havant & Waterlooville
In 88 years of football, Aldershot Town have never reached a Wembley final.
On Tuesday night at a wet, blustery and somewhat wretched Westleigh Park, they squandered, arguably, the best chance they are ever likely to get.
Earlier in the day, the FA Trophy gods had pitted the Shots with a favourable potential semi-final draw against Skrill South minnows Gosport Borough, while avoiding a showdown with Premier high-fliers Cambridge United or Grimsby Town.
But any preconceived suggestions of provisional coach bookings or commemorative T-shirts were thrown completely out of the window as Hampshire rivals Havant & Waterlooville - 21 places below in the Shots in the non-league pyramid - ruthlessly stopped them in their tracks.
Undoubtedly, the game hinged on the controversial 37th-minute sending off of Jordan Roberts following a petulant off-the-ball clash with Havant's Perry Ryan in a sand-filled centre circle.
At the time, Andy Scott's men were in total control, but suddenly the feeling they would be made to pay for their profligacy came to the fore and once the Hawks made good use of the conditions to open the scoring a minute into the second half, the writing was on the wall.
Dennis Oli's close-range effort, followed by three fine strikes by Nigel Atangana, Alex Przespolewski and Farnborough boy Nic Ciardini, sent the Hawks soaring into dreamland long before Brett Williams gave the large travelling support a rare moment of joy from the penalty spot late on.
Dumbstruck manager Andy Scott emerged from the dressing room clearly shaken afterwards and refused to defend Roberts for his costly red card - his third in a fledgling career of just 25 senior appearances.
“We were camped in their half and the sending off has changed everything," Scott said.
"From what I've seen it's not a sending off. Jordan has run into the lad's heel and the referee couldn't get his card out quick enough.
“That said, I'm not defending Jordan because he's put himself in a position where the referee has a decision to make. He's done it a couple of times and when it costs you as much as this it's a big, big blow.
“Jordan has a tendency of lunging in and giving referees the opportunity to send him off. You can't go round putting yourself in that position. Saying sorry is all right, but it's too late I'm afraid.
“It's petulance really. He's a young lad but it's a man's game and you've got to be a man to play it. We needed 11 men out there to do a job in a massive game in difficult conditions and unfortunately it's cost us dear.
“I'm devastated because that was the best chance of Wembley we were going to get."
Roberts' dismissal came at just the wrong time for the Shots, who were already smarting at their inability to take chances which could have put this quarter-final tie to bed by the break.
The 20-year-old winger stupidly was caught clipping the heels of Ryan as he jogged behind him to referee Nick Kinseley, who wasted no time in brandishing a straight red card to the disillusionment of those in red shirts.
Up until that point it was one-way traffic with Mark Molesley and Joe Oastler testing experienced keeper Scott Bevan, while Oastler then headed Roberts' free kick against the post, only for defensive partner Adam Webster to be deemed offside as Molesley rifled the loose ball into the net.
Roberts' dismissal gave the Hawks the perfect pick-me-up with Ciardini firing an effort just over the top and Christian Nanetti bending a 20-yard free kick inches wide of the upright.
But, with the swirling wind and rain at their backs in the second half, it did not take long for the Hawks to take full advantage.
Just a minute into the restart, Ryan hung a corner from the left into a packed penalty area, keeper Glenn Morris uncharacteristically flapped at his far post and Oli, on trial at Aldershot in the summer, bundled home from close range.
Four minutes later things got worse. Craig Stanley lost the ball in midfield, Atangana pounced on the loose ball, surged forward and unleashed a rocket of a shot from 25 yards which flew past Morris and into the bottom corner.
Substitute Przespolewski and Nanetti both had chances to make it 3-0 but on 72 minutes the inevitable came when Morris' clearance stuck in the sand and Przespolewski lobbed the advancing keeper from 30 yards into an empty net.
Ciardini then enjoyed his moment of glory against his former rivals a minute later with a fabulous fourth from 25 yards.
To their credit, the Shots battled away and, after Matt Paterson had an effort ruled out for offside, Williams bagged a consolation from the penalty spot with nine minutes left after he was felled in the box by Dan Strugnell.
But by then it mattered little, the damage had long been done.
ALDERSHOT: Morris, Gibbs, Oastler, Webster, Barker (Scott 59), Molesley, Stanley, Partington, Roberts, Williams, Bubb (Rowlands 82). Subs: Tonkin, L Williams.
Ref: Nick Kinseley. Att: