GINO van Kessel’s first-half double was only enough for a point as Oxford United squandered a two-goal lead in the Checkatrade Trophy before losing the penalty shoot-out to Brighton & Hove Albion Under 21s.

Joe Rothwell was the only player to see his spot-kick saved, as Brighton buried all five of their efforts from 12 yards to claim an extra point.

It was all played out in front of a crowd of just 1,074 - United's second lowest home attendance of all-time.

A much-changed United had looked set to claim the three points when Van Kessel struck twice in seven minutes to put them 2-0 ahead.

But James Tilley’s crisp strike pulled a goal back before the break and Brighton got on top in the second half, drawing level through Dan Mandriou.

Josh Ashby came on for his first appearance in 18 months, but it was another substitute, Rothwell, who was denied a late winner by the woodwork.

U’s boss Pep Clotet took the chance to experiment with personnel and formation.

The eight changes from the 4-1 win at Peterborough United on Saturday included in goal, where Simon Eastwood’s 75-game run of starts was ended as Scott Shearer was handed a debut.

Agon Mehmeti also came into the side for his first start, but his night lasted only eight minutes – stretchered off with what looked a torn left hamstring.

James Roberts replaced him and the striker set up the opening goal midway through the half.

His left-footed cross found Van Kessel, who had earlier smashed a shot against the woodwork. This time the Curacao international swivelled and fired a shot from eight yards which took a deflection on its way past Rob Sanchez.

There was no doubt about his second of the night, which arrived on the break seven minutes later.

Xemi’s pass played in Van Kessel, who beat Sanchez from a narrow angle to put United in charge.

The average age of Brighton’s starting XI was under 19, but they dealt well with the double setback and got back into the game nine minutes before the break.

Tilley, who scored for the Seagulls’ first team in the Carabao Cup this season, had already looked their stand-out player before he found the net from 20 yards.

It was a terrific first-time strike with his left foot which gave Shearer no chance as it curled just inside the far post.

United’s two-goal lead should have been restored in first-half stoppage-time.

Again Van Kessel caused problems, flying down the right and driving into the box, but from his cutback Alex Mowatt shot straight at Sanchez from ten yards.

United lost their way after the break as Brighton played the brighter football.

Shearer survived a couple of nervy moments from backpasses, but the goalkeeper was beaten midway through the half.

Careless play from the hosts surrendered possession and Mandriou punished them with a low 25-yard drive which flew into the far corner of the net.

A quarter of the game remained for the sides to find a winner.

Brighton looked the most likely for a while as Mandriou and Steven Alzate had chances.

At the other end, Aaron Martin had a header cleared off the line from a corner, while substitute Rothwell came agonisingly close with an 87th-minute shot which struck Sanchez’s right-hand upright.

It was a moment the midfielder in particular would live to regret, as his spot-kick was the only failure in the shoot-out for the extra point.

Oxford Utd (3-5-2): Shearer, Nelson, Williamson, Martin, Henry, Ledson (Rothwell 70), Mowatt (Ashby 80), Xemi, Ruffels, Van Kessel, Mehmeti (Roberts 8).

Unused subs: Eastwood, Ribeiro, Baptiste, Thomas.

Booked: None.

Brighton U21 (4-4-2): Sanchez, Morrison, Moore, Kerr, Cox, Tilley, Sanders, Collar, Ahannach, Mandriou, Alzate.

Unused subs: Ajiboye, Collings, Longman, Cashman, Ljubicic, Cochrane, Clarke-Eden.

Booked: None.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 1,074 (64 visitors).