Oxford United under-18s were beaten 2-0 by league leaders Exeter City at Abingdon United earlier today.
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 leaders all the way.
It could have been a different story had Kyran Lofthouse's 10th-minute shot been an inch lower; it smashed against the bar with the Exeter keeper well beaten but unfortunately for United the ball bounced down a foot inside the pitch.
Just six minutes later the visitors took the lead from a snap shot as the Exeter side finished clinically from inside the Oxford area. The Grecians could have added to their tally but for some strong defending from the United back line and a couple of smart saves from goalkeeper Max Evans.
At the other 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 both sides playing quality football.
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.
With second-placed Swindon Town the visitors to Abingdon next Saturday, Oxford have an early opportunity to put this disappointment behind them.
United: Evans, Carr, McCreadie (Baker 80), Berry-Hargreaves, Chilcott, Hopkins, Heap, Crooks (Mannings 69), Lofthouse, James, Noel-Williams (Stevens 82)