Devastated Oxford City boss Mark Jones admitted their heartbreaking FA Cup defeat at Notts County on Saturday made some of his squad cry.
The National League South strugglers were seconds away from having their name in the third round draw for the first time in their history, only to be denied by a 95th minute County winner.
The dogged Hoops lost 3-2 but twice fought back from behind to level the tie through Rob Sinclair and Matt Paterson in front of the TV cameras.
A gutted Jones said: “It was heartbreaking. There were a few tears in the dressing room.
“The boys have given everything and we were seconds away from achieving a result and getting them back to Marsh Lane.
“We thought we were in the hat for the third round. We were so, so close – it couldn’t have been any closer.”
Oxford started brightly but fell behind after half an hour when Richard Duffy somehow bundled home the opener.
Former Premier League striker Jon Stead hit the post for the Magpies in the second half but effervescent City charged up the other end and Sinclair fired home a deflected equaliser.
County responded quickly and had their lead back three minutes later when Stead scored from the penalty spot.
But City don’t know when they’re beaten and the magic of the FA Cup was almost tangible when Paterson, scorer of the winner at Colchester, struck again, converting a Zak McEachran cut back from close range.
The final whistle was just moments away when Oxfordshire-born Jorge Grant struck from close range for the League Two high-flyers to end City’s remarkable cup run.
The part-timers, who last week revealed debts of nearly £1million, won £42,500 in progressing to the second round, collecting a further £72,000 for the tie being televised.
Jones added: “We couldn’t have given anymore and to go down in the game twice we showed tremendous character, quality and spirit to get the equaliser on two occasions.
“Sometimes you need the footballing gods on your side but it wasn’t to be. “Even the Notts County players said ‘you didn’t deserve that, your lads are a credit to you’.
“Hopefully we’ll have many more days like this but at the moment it’s absolutely devastating.”