Cambridge United were dealt a late blow following an exciting display against promotion chasers Exeter City, who stuck twice in the final ten minutes to grab the three points with a 2-3 victory.
Twice United led through Jabo Ibehre and George Maris, but goals from Jayden Stockley, Matt Jay and Jake Taylor meant the Grecians travelled back to Devon with a win.
An unchanged U’s side began the fixture the liveliest of the teams, with Maris forcing Exeter Christy Pym goalkeeper into an early save low to his right.
The Grecians’ shot stopper denied Greg Taylor too on 18 minutes minutes, diving at full stretch to push away the centre back’s header, before Dean Moxey was well placed to clear Jabo Ibehre’s near post header off the line minutes later.
David Forde showed excellent concentration to get hands to Hiram Boateng’s curling free kick on 22 minutes, before displaying sharp reactions to deny Paul Tisdale’s side at his near post in what was the visitor’s only attempts on goal in the first 45 minutes.
And United took advantage three minutes before the break, when Ibehre scrambled Brad Halliday’s low delivery into the six yard box over the line to break the deadlock.
The U’s goal scorer was forced to leave the field ten minutes after half time though, following a clash with Christy Pym, and was replaced by Barry Corr.
The Grecians equalised on 57 minutes though through former U’s loanee Jayden Stockley, who arrived at the far post unmarked to direct Craig Woodman’s cross into the top right corner.
However, George Maris produced another stunner of a goal to pick out the top corner himself ten minutes later, to make it three goals from his last three games and restore the U’s lead.
They continued to press forward looking to put the game to bed as their positive performance gathered momentum in front of the home crowd. Barry Corr directed a diving header over Pym’s cross bar, before Jevani Brown cracked the woodwork with a fine whipping left footed strike that had the Grecians keeper beaten.
But in the end it Paul Tisdale’s side who dealt the U’s a double body blow in the final ten minutes, first through substitute Matt Jay who poked a loose ball past Forde after an initial shot from Stockley was blocked, before Jake Taylor notched in similar fashion moments later to secure the victory for the visitors.
Barry Corr was unable to angle a header on target within ten minutes of stoppage time, from a superb Maris cross from the left, and the U’s were left to wonder how their fine performance had left them empty handed.
Cambridge United: Forde, Halliday, Taft, Taylor (Legge, 86 mins), Carroll, Deegan, Brown, Maris, Dunk, Amoo (Davies, 83 mins), Ibehre (Corr, 54 mins)
Exeter City: Pym, Sweeney, Woodman (Wilson. 78 mins), James, Tillson, Simpson (Jay, 45 mins), Stockley, Moxey, Taylor, Storey, Boateng (Croll, 90 mins)
Attendance: 4,054 (390)
Vindis Man of the Match: Jevani Brown