Boston United’s promotion dream is over... after a cruel 5-4 defeat to Chorley on penalties.
United seemed to be destined to host old foes Guiseley in the Vanarama North’s play-off final after leading the Magpies with the four minutes of added time played.
But Chorley’s Adam Roscoe thumped home a last-gasp overhead kick to take the contest into extra time.
And when it came to spot kicks, Chorley keeper Sam Ashton - despite an over-the-top celebration in the face of United defender Carl Piergianni after saving his strike - was the hero, pulling off a succession of saves to book his side’s place in the final.
Losing on penalties is cruel at the best of times... as United found out against Guiseley four years ago.
But for the Pilgrims, they were beaten by a side who had never led them in four matches and 390 minutes of football.
And spare a thought for United keeper Max Stryjek, never on the losing side in his 12 matches with the club, yet ending his Boston tenure in the cruellest of ways.
Dennis Greene made one change to the team which drew 0-0 in the first leg at Victory Park in midweek, Kyle Dixon replacing Grant Roberts in midfield, while the away side stuck with the same starting XI.
It was Chorley who began the stronger, threatening from a series of corners while James Dean skied a good chance when through on goal.
But as United found their feet, Dayle Southwell rifled a 20-yard effort wide of the Magpies’ post.
The same player then hooked the ball into the danger zone where the bounce, through a packed penalty area, caught out strike partner Mark Jones, whose header lacked the direction and power to open the scoring.
Max Stryjek was then called upon to pull off a tremendous save, the Boston stopper getting down to his right in time to pound away Adam Roscore’s dipping 20-yard drive.
And that save proved vital as Scott Garner smashed home a loose ball to give the Pilgrims a 43rd-minute lead.
Chorley failed to clear Zak Mills’ long throw and as Southwell looped the ball into the danger zone, Mills saw his back-post strike parried by Sam Ashton.
But the captain was on hand to net from six yards out.
Boston were in dreamland four minutes after the re-start when Kaine Felix doubled their advantage.
After Roberts, a half-time replacement for Dixon, pressed the Magpies defence, Felix found himself through on goal and kept his composure to prod beyond the onrushing Ashton.
Chorley pulled themselves back into the contest on 56 minutes as deep free kick evaded the Pilgrims defence and Chris Doyle was on hand to squeeze home from the tightest of angles.
Southwell came within a whisker of restoring that two-goal cushion when he latched onto Jones’ flick-on, but as his thumping strike beat Ashton it rebounded back into play off the post.
And when the striker went on a surging run from just inside the Chorley half, it ended with a strike over the bar.
United were given a nervy moment as Dale Whitham’s cross squirmed just over Stryjek’s bar... but there was more drama to come.
Deep into time added on, Adam Roscoe forced extra time with a superb overhead kick which pulled the Magpies level.
United were furious that the strike came well after the additional four minutes had been played, but referee Tom Nield pointed to treatment Felix had received beyond the 90 minutes.
Extra time saw two titing sides, who had given everything, struggle to create chances.
However, Roscoe received his marching orders for a second yellow after 108 minutes, tripping Walker to earn an early shower.
With a minute to go, Southwell headed a Rene Steer cross over as Jones looked poised to pounce.
And with that, it was penalties.
Dean sent Stryjek the wrong way but Southwell did likewise.
Jack Dorney netted, Mills levelled.
Stryjek denied Whitham but Ashton did likewise to Garner.
Paul Jarvis beat the Polish keeper, Jones levelled again.
Stryjek then denied Flynn but Ashton pushed Piergianni’s effort onto the bar.
Into sudden death, Aaron Burns converted, as did Jamie McGhee.
But the decisive strikes saw Mark Ross net and Rene Steer see his effort saved by Ashton.
Football. Depending on who you support - it’s the most beautiful passtime or an absolute heartbreaker.
UNITED: Stryjek, Marrs, Mills, Piergianni, Steer, Felix (Hall 90), Garner, Dixon (Roberts HT), Walker (McGhee 109), Southwell, Jones; Subs (not used): Newsham, Vince.
CHORLEY: Ashton, Ross, Teague (Flynn 57), Doyle, Jarvis, Roscoe, Whitham, Hine (Burns 63), Winter, Dorney, Dean; Subs (not used): Cottrell, Mather.
Ref: Tom Nield.