Oxford United went out of the Papa Johns Trophy this evening as second-half goals from Coby Rowe and Kylian Kouassi sent Sutton United through to the knock-out stages.
On a perfect Autumn evening, United settled neatly enough despite the multiple changes in the line-up, and their patient approach play had the home side penned back for much of the first 20 minutes, but they failed to turn that into goals.
The closest they came was after just 13 minutes when Matty Taylor thundered a shot against the bar after working space inside the box, but they were still in control of the game and moving the ball around nicely.
The problem was they they failed to keep the momentum going. The non-stop Tyler Goodrham headed a good chance wide when Djavan Anderson picked him out with a 26th-minute cross, but slowly Sutton fought their way back into the tie.
Ed McGinty made one routine save and then had an adventurous moment after 33 minutes when he headed a clearance 30 yards from goal and two inches off the ground, and needed Alex Gorrin to clear up the resulting danger.
He atoned for that soon after the break when he got back smartly to tip a misdirected cross over the bar as it threatened to drop into the goal, but from the corner the home side took the lead when Rowe rose highest to thump his header home and suddenly the group leaders were bottom of the table.
That sparked greater urgency. Gorrin powered in a shot that House pushed away, and on the hour Gatlin O'Donkor and Marcus Browne were thrown on to try and keep the U's in the competition. The frustration deepened immediately because before either had touched the ball it was 2-0 and United were heading out of the Trophy.
It was a slightly soft penalty. The U's had repelled one attack but not cleared the ball too far when it was rolled into Kouassi with his back to goal. Stuart Findlay challenged, Kouassi was knocked over and the same player picked himself up to score from the spot.
Throwing caution to the wind, United were denied by a good block when O'Donkor let fly at goal and then when House was in just the right place to block a drive from sub Ciaron Brown. O'Donkor had another shot saved and United had made chances but ultimately failed to deliver in the Papa Johns.
Report by Chris Williams pictures by Steve Edmunds, Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher