Oxford United Under-18s’ eight-match unbeaten run was ended with 2-0 defeat by league leaders Exeter City at Abingdon United on Monday.
A goal in each half earned victory for the Grecians, with the decider coming just two minutes from time as United pushed the South-West Youth Alliance pacesetters all the way.
It could have been a different story had Kyran Lofthouse’s 10th-minute shot been an inch lower.
The forward smashed the ball against the bar with the Exeter keeper well beaten but, unfortunately for United, the ball bounced down and away.
Shortly afterwards the visitors took the lead from a snap shot as Exeter, the last team to beat Oxford in September, finished clinically from inside the Oxford area.
At the other end both Dejon Noel-Williams and Owen James caused problems for the Exeter defenders, and with Albie Hopkins and Lofthouse both also looking to get forward at every opportunity, this was an open and entertaining game.
With the U’s pushing forward looking to get on level terms they were always susceptible to Exeter breaking quickly and in the 88th minute the visitors took advantage to seal the points and extend their lead at the top.
United welcome second-placed Swindon Town to the Northcourt for derby day on Saturday.