A superb stoppage time strike from old boy Conor McAleny stunned Oxford United as Fleetwood Town earned a smash-and-grab victory on Tuesday.
The former Everton youngster, who enjoyed a prolific loan spell at the Kassam last season, came off the bench in the second half to characteristically cut in from the left and hammer a fierce 25-yard drive beyond keeper Simon Eastwood.
It was a body blow for the U’s who, desperate for a win, dominated the game and had enough chances to win the game comfortably.
Alex Mowatt returned from his three match ban to zing an effort narrowly wide before Wes Thomas, who squandered multiple chances, headed over before half time.
There were more golden opportunities to score – and secure Karl Robinson’s first Oxford win – in the second half.
Joe Rothwell misjudged his angles, Ryan Ledson could not respond quick enough to a back post cross and Thomas volleyed wide late on after skewing wide from a jinking run.
At the other end, Eastwood came to Oxford’s rescue with two superb saves in quick succession.
He saved with his feet from Bobby Grant following a poor back pass by John Mousinho before acrobatically turning aside a Kyle Dempsey drive.
But wasteful United were made to pay when McAleny, the scorer of 10 goals under Michael Appleton’s stewardship last season, cracked home the ferocious winner to stun the home crowd. The 23-year-old did not celebrate.
Robinson admitted he was ‘shocked and speechless’ after his side failed to win.
He said: “You have to score. I can do all the coaching in the world, I can get them motivated and I can get them to play well. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“In all the games I’ve managed I don’t think I’ve ever been so shocked after a game.
“My players were outstanding – but they have to score.”
The defeat means the U’s remain just five points above the relegation zone and have now not managed to beat Fleetwood in eight attempts.
Oxford host Southend United (13th) on Saturday in another crucial home game before a daunting trip to league leaders Wigan Athletic on Tuesday.