So Oxford United have lost at last, after more than 30 hours of football.

But there was no disgrace in this FA Cup first-round defeat at Wycombe where they put in an heroic battling performance and were only undone by two rare lapses at the back.

When substitute Gavin Johnson drilled in a 25-yard free-kick five minutes from time to bring United an equaliser they had been pressing hard for, it looked as though they had done enough to bring the League Two side back to Oxford for a replay.

But that's maybe just what the players thought as well, because they let their guard slip for a second.

Almost straight from the kick-off, Wycombe bombed down the other end to snatch a second goal and the winner through their two most effective players.

Kevin Betsy, playing up front because Jermaine Easter was suspended, got the better of Phil Gilchrist, centred from the right and Stefan Oakes finished with a quality left-foot finish low into the net.

And yet, over the 90 minutes, there hadn't been much between the teams, Oxford showing they were a match for Paul Lambert's in-form side, who are through to the last eight in the Carling Cup.

Defensively in the first half, and in midfield where Chris Hargreaves and Eddie Hutchinson were magnificent, Oxford were right on top of their game.

It was just up front where they fell short, with Rob Duffy sidelined by his broken hand, and Yemi Odubade and Steve Basham not posing the same threat.

Despite wearing his light cast, Duffy's injury was considered too troublesome to let him play.

And with Billy Beechers having been loaned out to Oxford City, there was no striker on the bench as cover.

Just as big a blow to the U's, however, was the loss of Andy Burgess, the side's chief playmaker, ruled out through a calf strain.

Hutchinson took over Burgess's role as often the most advanced midfielder and it was to his great credit that the Conference side, although looking different, didn't look excessively weakened.

The tone for a scrappy and fiercely-fought first half was set in the opening seconds when former U's player Tommy Mooney clattered Hargreaves, which merely increased the volume of the stick he had been getting from the Oxford fans.

The visitors started well, looking sharp from the off and winning plenty of second ball in the middle of the park, thanks to the competitiveness of Hutchinson and Hargreaves.

A good early move involving Rufus Brevett and Hargreaves, who delivered the cross from the left, ended with Hutchinson going close with a header under pressure.

But then Wycombe enjoyed a strong spell of pressure and several times looked dangerous at free-kicks from Oakes.

Giant defender Mike Williamson glanced a header wide at one free-kick conceded by Eddie Anaclet.

And when Hargreaves gave away another in a central position, despite appearing to win the ball, Oakes hammered it against the bar with goalkeeper Billy Turley rooted to his spot.

Brevett was booked for a shoulder-charge on Anthony Grant, but to the fury of the Oxford supporters, referee Scott Mathieson then took no action at a succession of equally bad challenges and fouls from host players.

Wycombe edged the first half and twice more went close. Betsy got to the left bye-line to cross, Turley managed to part-clear and then Hutchinson booted to safety.

And midway through the half, Chris Palmer's left-wing cross flicked off a couple of heads to arrive at an unmarked Mooney at the far post.

The former United striker dived forward to head goalwards, but Turley saved it on his knees.

Hargreaves showed tremendous determination to set up one attack from the visitors, and Hutchinson headed narrowly wide at another from Carl Pettefer's free-kick.

Carl Pettefer then managed to knock the ball past Will Antwi for a run at goal in a central position, only to be cynically fouled, which earned the African defender a yellow card.

The turning point of the game came right on half-time when Barry Quinn's free-kick was headed only as far as Chris Willmott, who struck a brilliant left-foot volley that was heading for the top of the goal. But home keeper Jamie Young pushed it over his bar.

Another Hutchinson header was then cleared from in front of his own goalline by a defender.

However, Hutchinson had twisted his ankle near the end of the first half, and was hobbling around when the second started.

That didn't, however, prevent him from getting stuck in. The midfielder chested down one difficult high ball and fired in a left-foot drive that Young saved, before making way for Johnson in the 57th minute.

Conference teams don't do things as quickly as League teams and perhaps the U's were unused to adjusting so fast.

They weren't quite switched on in the seconds after the substitution was made.

Wycombe suddenly forced a corner, took it quickly, and before United knew what had hit them, Antwi had side-footed the ball home.

Jim Smith's men fought hard to get back in the game and pushed men forward.

Basham, with his back to goal, swivelled to get in a shot from outside the box, but got under it, while Johnson and Brevett worked hard to get in crosses from the left.

Antwi missed a great opportunity to make it 2-0 with a far-post volley which he screwed wide, before the light relief of a lost pheasant scampering along the pitch, trying to avoid being trodden on.

"Sign him on, sign him on" chanted the Oxford fans. He was certainly nippy.

Smith threw on Matt Day up front in the last few minutes and United pressed hard.

With time running out, they won another free-kick from distance, and Johnson ran up and hit it as sweet as you like, the ball flying past Young and going in off the far post.

But while Oxford were still mentally celebrating, Wycombe sprinted away to score again.