A BUMPER crowd left disappointed as Oxford United conceded twice late on to slip to a defeat against Plymouth Argyle.
Reuben Reid struck twice in six minutes to put the Pilgrims on the way to maximum points in front of more than 10,000 at the Kassam Stadium.
There was late drama when Neal Trotman scored an own goal to give United hope, but despite pushing hard they could not find a grandstand finish.
The excitement in the closing stages was in stark contrast to an uneventful first half.
United only got going once they fell behind to Caolan Lavery's strike seconds after the restart.
Asa Hall levelled with a superb strike, but for once they could not kick on in the final 20 minutes and instead Reid's brace meant it was the 699 away fans making all the noise at the final whistle.
Sean Rigg came in for Josh Ruffels in the only change to the United starting line-up from Saturday's goalless draw at York.
United had billed the game as 'The Big Match' and a bumper crowd were treated to a variety of pre-match entertainment.
Pyrotechnics accompanied the two teams on their way out of the tunnel, helping to generate a great atmosphere before kick-off.
Unfortunately, there were no fireworks when the game got under way.
United struggled to find a rhythm against a physical Plymouth side, who had all the early sights of goal.
Goalkeeper Ryan Clarke twice made routine stops from Andres Gurrieri, while skipper Conor Hourihane bent a shot just over the crossbar.
The home side had plenty of the ball, without making much headway in the final third.
Dave Kitson, one booking away from a two-game ban, flirted with danger several times early on, but escaped without punishment.
The veteran had United's only effort on goal from open play before the break, glancing a header from David Hunt's cross well wide.
Hunt came closest to breaking the deadlock after James Constable was fouled just outside the box on 25 minutes.
The full back caught the free-kick sweetly, only to see it miss the top corner by inches.
It would have been a spectacular goal, but it proved to be the highlight in an otherwise drab 45 minutes.
The game badly needed a goal - and one duly arrived within 30 seconds of the restart.
It was not the breakthrough the massed ranks of home support were craving, though, as Lavery spun and shot past Clarke from 20 yards.
United were stung into action and came agonisingly close to an equaliser within two minutes.
Hunt's long throw found its way to Constable at the back post, who powered a header which hit the underside of the bar but did not cross the line.
Falling behind fired up the hosts, though, and they went on to increase the pressure.
A series of half chances came and went, before the equaliser arrived on 66 minutes.
A clearance went straight to Hall, who calmly chested the ball down and volleyed into the far corner from 25 yards.
United looked to build on the goal and Danny Rose came close to matching his central midfield colleague, volleying just over from the edge of the box.
Chris Wilder's men have made a habit out of scoring late goals, but as the game ticked into the final ten minutes they conceded.
Kitson handled a cross and from the spot Reid sent Clarke the wrong way to restore the advantage.
The game looked over when the striker scored again six minutes later.
Tope Obadeyi had a shot blocked straight into Reid's path and, despite the efforts of Jake Wright on the line, the ball crept into the net.
It was the cue for some U's fans to head for an early exit, but many were quickly scurrying back to their seats.
Within a minute of falling 3-1 behind, Tom Newey's cross was turned into his own net by Trotman.
Four additional minutes gave added hope of a comeback, but a free-kick which Rose curled wide was their final chance as United stumbled to defeat.
Oxford Utd (4-4-1-1): Clarke, Hunt, Mullins, Wright, Newey, Williams, Hall, Rose, Rigg, Kitson, Constable.
Subs used: Smalley (Rigg 79).
Unused subs: Crocombe, Long, Raynes, Davies, Ruffels, Marsh.
Booked: Rigg, Hunt, Kitson.
Plymouth (4-4-2): McCormick, Blanchard, Trotman, Nelson, Purrington, Gurrieri, Blizzard, Hourihane, Alessandra, Reid (Branston 90), Lavery (Obadeyi 83).
Unused subs: Cole, Boco, Young, Wotton, Thomas.
Booked: Gurrieri, Purrington, Blanchard, Lavery.
Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire).
Attendance: 10,049 (699 visitors).