A tense and exciting match at a freezing Marsh Lane saw Oxford City Nomads narrowly beaten by table-topping Highworth Town.
The Nomads were leading with 20 minutes left to play but a red card for Liam Talboys saw the tides turn, allowing Highworth to pull level and eventually go on to win the game.
The Nomads got off to a promising start as Jordi Mulvany headed narrowly wide from a 4th minute corner, but the game quickly descended into a catalogue of scrappy challenges and off the ball incidents.
The quality began to return to the match a quarter of an hour later with Nathan Simms forced into a strong block on the edge of the 6-yard box to deny what looked like a certain goal.
The Nomads' defence was, however breached just a minute later as Highworth drove a corner into the near post, seeing the ball ricochet off of Mulvany before eventually making its way into the back of the net via a final touch from Wayne Turk.
The visitors weren't ahead for long. A beautifully weighted through ball saw Sami Khawaja race free of his man, taking the ball wide before slotting under Josh Langley to level the scores.
With parity restored, Highworth's Callum Parsons began to mature into the game. The forward twice went close in the closing stages of the half: firing wide from a tight angle before heading into the arms of Sanders from close range.
The half time whistle was something of a relief for The Nomads who had been coming under increasing pressure as the half drew to a close and allowed them to come back out with all guns blazing.
Siyanda Gila's left footed drive from range passed just wide of the post before Khawaja once again got in a dangerous position six yards from goal before eventually being dispossessed. Undeterred, the tricky midfielder gave the Nomads the lead in the 70th minute, latching onto a horribly mistimed clearance before holding off the challenges of two men to hook the ball home at the near post.
The goal put The Nomads firmly in the ascendency but just two minutes later the shape of the game was drastically altered. A heavy challenge on Talboys went unpunished, allowing the visitors to construct a break which ended with a poorly timed challenge from Mulvany. The skipper avoided punishment but Talboys, already booked earlier in the game, picked up a second yellow for dissent in the wake of the initial challenge.
To add insult to injury, Kieron Gleed stepped up to take the resulting free kick, his low drive beating Sanders to level the scores oncemore. Ashley Edenborough should have given his side the lead when well placed at the near post, somehow failing to find the target.
Although a man down, the Nomads showed no sign of trying to completely shut up shop as they looked for opportunities to nick a winner. It almost arrived when a beautiful diagonal ball picked out substitute Connor Mattimore, only for his left footed effort to screw well wide of the mark.
The visitors' push for a final goal showed no sign of letting up, however, and another glorious opportunity was spurned with two minutes left to play: Ryan O'Hara dragging an effort well wide despite being unmarked on the penalty spot.
Unfortunately for the home side it was another effort from the penalty spot which decided the game. A desperate lunge from Mulvany right at the end looked initially to win the ball however the referee saw differently to award a penalty, which Edenborough converted emphatically to win the game right at the death.
Updated 23:01 - 2 Jan 2018 by Oxford City FC