PORT Glasgow were knocked out of the West of Scotland Cup in the cruellest way possible on Saturday, after losing a penalty shoot-out against Neilston.
It was rough luck on the Port, who had given as good as they got against their higher league opponents during a highly entertaining 90 minutes in which play constantly raged from end to end.
But they did have their chances to win the match before it went to penalties, only to be denied by a combination of poor finishing and an inspired performance by James Digney in the Neilston goal.
With the former Greenock management team of Martin Campbell, John Paul Dow and John Boyd in the Neilston dug-out, the opening exchanges were frantic.
But the first chance didn't come until the 19th minute, when visiting centre-forward Robert Cameron looked to have scored with flick shot from six yards out, but the ball drifted inches wide.
The Port's first real opportunity came a few minutes later, with a short pass back from Neilston defender Euan Clark allowing Paul Johnstone a clear run in on goal - but the ball was blocked by the feet of keeper Digney as the Port man attempted to go round him.
The Parklea men were made to pay for that missed opportunity just 60 seconds later, as Neilston broke up the park through the lively Jordan Paterson, whose cross was met by Allan Orr to steer a low shot past Port keeper Craig Beaton.
Before half-time Port Glasgow had another one-one-one with the Neilston keeper as Jamie McKenna latched on to a long ball, but Digney again won the battle of wits with another save.
The second half was no less frantic, with both sides committed to attack.
The Port got back on level terms in the 52nd minute when a trademark pile-driver from David McGarrigle from outside the box deflected off a Neilston player and ended up in the back of the net, with the Port man nevertheless claiming the goal as his to maintain his recent impressive scoring record.
Port Glasgow were now on top and a neat head-flick by McKenna gave Bradley Anderson a clear look at goal - but the substitute, on for the injured Dylan McLaughlin at half-time - put too much on his chip shot and the ball sailed over the bar.
Meanwhile at the other end, Neilston were also pressing, and keeper Beaton pulled off a fine save from a Paterson effort.
There was no let-up in the action as the game entered the closing stages, with Neilston keeper Digney's only error of the 90 minutes being spilling a corner at the feet of Johnstone, whose shot from six yards somehow went over the bar.
With six minutes remaining Neilston thought they had got the winner when a shot ricocheted off Beaton to the feet of centre-forward Cameron, but his effort drifted just past the post.
But the Port had a golden chance to clinch the tie in the 87th minute, when Anderson had a shot from point blank range somehow turned round the post by Digney, although the Port man will perhaps feel he ought to have buried the ball in the back of the net.
And so it went to what ended up as perhaps the worst penalty shoot-out yet seen at Parklea, as the sides contrived to miss seven of the 12 spot kicks taken.
It looked bleak for the Port when the normally reliable McGarrigle blazed their opening kick over the bar and Johnstone then saw his penalty saved by Digney.
But Neilston proved to be equally inept from the spot, hitting the post and having another saved by Beaton.
Anderson and Gary Pettigrew converted the Port's next two to tie the score at 2-2 after four penalties each.
But McKenna then had the Port's fifth kick saved, giving Neilston sub Derek Kennedy the chance to put his team through, but his poor spot-kick sailed past the post.
The Port failed to capitalise on the reprieve, though, as Paul Pettigrew blasted his kick over the bar, and this time there was no way back after Robert Storrie netted his to send a relieved Neilston through to the second round after a pulsating cup tie.
Port boss Craig Brown said: ''Losing on penalties is never a nice way to go out of a cup, but I thought there was nothing between the teams, and both ourselves and Neilston had chances to win it in 90 minutes.
''It's disappointing to lose, but to take the plusses out of the game, we are trying to get promotion into the league Neilston are in, and I think we showed today that we are going in the right direction.''
PORT GLASGOW: Beaton, McClement (P. Pettigrew 41), Boyle, McMillan, McGarrigle, G. Pettigrew, Paton, McLaughlin (Anderson 45), Johnstone, McKenna, McCormick. Subs not used: Munn, Davis.
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Report: Gary Pews