For the third successive season, Spalding United were knocked out of the League Cup in a penalty shoot-out.
Former Tulips striker Jake Newman slotted home the sudden-death winner for AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday night.
Despite previous exits to Ilkeston and Matlock Town in this competition on spot-kicks, Spalding can actually boast an unbeaten record in 90 minutes.
Extra-time is not played so a goalless draw led to the ‘lottery’ from 12 yards.
Five penalties each meant any miss would be costly. So when Ben Heath saved from Jordan Lemon, the chance went to Newman who duly sent Diamonds into the last eight.
With both clubs pushing for promotion, the Integro Cup is hardly a priority but there were plenty of positives for Spalding.
They fielded a full-strength side and made three changes early in the second half which provided opportunities for those substitutes to stay sharp for the big league games coming up.
Before the break, Spalding had enough clear-cut chances to put them well on course for a sixth successive away win.
They were denied a few times by Heath, however at least a couple of openings should have been converted.
Leon Mettam dragged his far-post effort wide, Bradley Wells missed the target with a free header, Lemon’s volley was pushed wide and Nathan Whitehead went close as well.
It wasn’t one-way traffic but the Tulips looked to have taken control.
Yet they couldn’t break the deadlock and Richard Walton kept out Robbie Parsons, Ben Ford and Newman.
Diamonds were better in the second half – indeed, Taylor Orosz raced clear and rolled his shot wide in the opening moments.
Walton also denied Lewis Leslie who nodded wide from the resulting corner kick.
Another shot by Orosz took a deflection and later he wasted a golden chance when it looked easier to score.
Spalding needed spells of last-gasp defending, again being led by skipper Nathan Stainfield’s efforts.
They played out the closing stages with 10 men after Paul Walker’s ankle injury.
The Tulips could have even snatched a stoppage-time winner when Adam Jackson released Brad Barraclough, only for a poor touch to take the ball safely to Heath.
Ultimately, the keeper made the difference when he pushed out Lemon’s penalty.
Spalding missed out on a quarter-final place but now they can focus fully on their promotion challenge.
AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS
4-3-3: Heath; McNulty, Harris, Dolman, Ford; Leslie, Farrell, Parsons; Orosz, Wilson (sub Brown-Hill 64 mins), Newman. Subs not used: Finlay, Wreh, Desborough, Brown.
4-4-2: Walton 7; Walker 7, Miller 7, Stainfield 8, Jackson 7; Beeson 6 (sub Higginson 52 mins, 7), Varley 7, Whitehead 7, Lemon 7; Wells 6 (sub Lockie 62 mins, 6), Mettam 6 (sub Barraclough h-t, 6). Subs not used: Fleming, Duggan.
Whitehead (0-1); Dolman (1-1); Miller (1-2); Parsons (2-2); Stainfield (2-3); Farrell (3-3); Varley (3-4); Leslie (4-4); Higginson (4-5); Brown-Hill (5-5); Lemon (saved, 5-5); Newman (6-5).
Orosz, Ford, Varley (fouls); Newman (dissent).
Nathan Stainfield – yet again, the skipper led by example at the back.
Leek Town (A) – First Division South, Saturday.