Burgess Hill’s dream of reaching the First Round proper of the FA Cup for the first time ended with a 3-1 defeat away to Conference Premier club Dartford.
Two goals by Harry Crawford set things up for the home side early in the first half.
Hill substitute Darren Budd pulled a goal back with his first touch after coming on which briefly fuelled hope of making a comeback to level terms.
But the game was killed off as a competition six minutes before half-time when Toby Pointing gave away a handball which was punished with his sending-off.
Elliot Bradbrook calmly scored Dartford’s third goal from the ensuing penalty kick which proved to be too big a blow for Hill to recover from.
Hill manager Ian Chapman made five changes to the side which had beaten Aveley 1-0 in the FA Trophy last Saturday with topscorer Rob O’Toole, Pat Harding, Joe Keehan, Scott Kirkwood and Andy Pearson coming in for Dann Perry, Will Miles, Lee Harding, Darren Budd and Chris Breech who were all on the bench.
Dartford looked an early threat when Andy Pugh hit a shot narrowly wide in the early stages.
After some even exchanges the Darts took the lead in the 11th minute when Harry Crawford rounded Toby Pointing on the left and shot to the opposite side of goal with a well-taken strike.
Crawford scored again to make it 2-0 on 16 minutes with a tap-in goal from six yards following a blunder by keeper Josh James who misjudged a cross from the right by Tom Bender.
Hillians responded with a long free-kick by Neil Watts who found the head of O’Toole in the area only for him to nod over the bar.
At the other end Crawford had a chance of a hat-trick but instead of shooting laid the ball back to a team-mate but Hill managed to clear for a corner.
Darren Budd repaid his manager for bringing him on after 33 minutes for Graham Martin who had taken a knock and immediately scored just 20 seconds later with his first touch of the ball.
He got hold of a half-cleared free-kick and smashed the ball in from 20 yards.
There was a tremendous cheer from the enthusiastic Hillians’ fans who made the trip as the goal went in as at 2-1 they were back in the game with all to play for.
Sadly the excitement was to be shortlived as just six minutes later tragedy struck when Crawford intercepted a poor back pass from Andy Pearson and shot on target which handballed in the area by Toby Pointing.
The desperate ploy kept the ball out of the goal but earned him a straight red card while Dartford were awarded a penalty.
Dartford captain Elliot Bradbrook stepped up to put the spot-kick away low to the left of James. At 3-1 down and reduced to 10 men for over half the match you felt it was too much for Hill to come back from.
Burgess Hill were certainly not giving up easily and went on the attack early in the seocnd half with Pat Harding getting into an advanced posiiton and laying back for O’Toole to fire narrowly wide.
The game slowed in pace as Dartford were able to comfortably keep their two-goal cushion by keeping possession and Hill could not get far enough forward to threaten the Darts’ keeper.
As the second half progressed Chapman brought on Lee Harding for O’Toole.
Dartford then had a couple more chances to score as Nathan Collier set-up Push for a header which flew narrowly wide and Crawford was denied a hat-trick by James.
Hill worked hard and pressed well in the last 20 minutes but despite getting possession against the odds, could not force Josh James to make a save as the game edged towards its expected conclusion.
HILLIANS: James, Watts, Fisk, Martin (Budd 33), Pearson, Pointing, Kirkwood, Keehan, P.Harding (Perry 85), Luer, O’Toole (L.Harding 68).
Unused subs: Breech, Miles, Perry, Slaughter, Morrish
DARTS: Brown, Bender, McAuley, Bradbrook, Hayes (Daly 73), Noble (Cornhill 81), Pugh (Harris 75), Mitchell-King, Collier, Sweeney, Crawford.
Unused subs: Cornhill, Phllips, Ibrahim, Adams, Vint
REFEREE: Lee Betts