Grimsby Town were knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup as they were beaten by Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium.
After getting past five teams from higher divisions on their historic run to last season’s quarter-finals, the Mariners were aiming to spring another surprise against the Sky Bet League One promotion contenders.
But despite another good team performance in front of 871 travelling supporters in Oxfordshire, a goal in each half meant this term’s cup run ended at the second round stage.
Marcus McGuane put the hosts ahead on 11 minutes after a quick counter-attack but Town were still in the game at half-time and substitute Donovan Wilson went close to levelling the scores after the break.
When the second goal came on 75 minutes though, Oxford doubled their advantage through a Billy Bodin header to seal their place in Sunday’s third round draw.
Just one change was made to the Grimsby starting XI after the midweek draw on the road at Milton Keynes Dons, with Alex Hunt replacing Arthur Gnahoua.
Goalkeeper Harvey Cartwright was protected by a defence of Toby Mullarkey, Harvey Rodgers, Niall Maher and Anthony Glennon, while Kamil Conteh and Hunt sat behind Rekeil Pyke, Harry Clifton and Otis Khan in midfield as Danny Rose led the attack.
Jake Eastwood, Luke Waterfall, Michee Efete, Kieran Green, Gavan Holohan, Callum Ainley, Abo Eisa, Evan Khouri and Wilson made up the nine-man substitutes’ bench.
Oxford made two changes from their previous line-up as they looked to carry their strong league form into this cup tie and ensure they would continue in the competition after Christmas.
The U’s included former Notts County attacker Ruben Rodrigues in their starting XI and he would be aiming to cause problems for the Town defence throughout the afternoon.
Rose missed the target after getting to an early Mullarkey cross as the visitors were first to attack, before Oxford’s opening forward move saw a ball which was aimed for striker Mark Harris instead go through to Cartwright.
Rodgers stepped in to make an interception as Rodrigues looked for Harris, then McGuane fired over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.
A deflected Rodrigues strike produced the game’s first corner but a Stanley Mills flick from it went through to Cartwright.
Town won their first corner at the other end seconds later when a quick break saw Rose find Hunt, whose shot was deflected behind. Khan’s cross was cleared and the hosts broke quickly through Josh Murphy. His shot was kept out by Cartwright but McGUANE followed up to open the scoring from the rebound.
Town’s response was positive and they created an opening for Khan to cross from the left, although it was headed away for a throw-in.
A great block kept Harris out at the near post after another Oxford break led to Murphy pulling the ball back, then calm play by Conteh inside his own penalty area saw him stop a further home attack.
Khan sent a shot over the bar on 24 minutes at the second attempt following a neat build-up by the Mariners, before a corner at the other end was headed clear by Rose.
Khan was involved again soon afterwards when his deflected strike was saved by goalkeeper James Beadle, then Harris headed wide as the game continued to move from end to end.
Rodrigues became the first of the afternoon to be shown the yellow card for dissent on the half-hour and he went on to escape a second booking moments later after a foul on Rodgers.
Oxford won a corner on their left but it was flicked clear by Hunt, with Conteh then getting the return ball from Cameron Brannagan away from danger.
The home pressure continued as Glennon had to concede another corner and after it was half-cleared, they retained possession until Ciaron Brown volleyed wide from a Murphy cross
A flick from Rose also went wide, before more good football by the Mariners saw them earn a corner. Glennon and Khan worked a short corner routine but when the ball was played to Clifton, he could only find keeper Beadle.
A shot from Murphy was deflected over the bar for a corner on 40 minutes and after Rose was first to Brannagan’s delivery, Murphy fired well off-target from the edge of the box.
Oxford kept attacking and a strike by Mills was blocked, before his follow-up attempt was held by Cartwright.
Town were looking to get back on level terms before the break and a cross from Khan was recycled by Pyke but when Rodgers sent the ball back into the box, nobody could get on the end of it.
Cartwright was called into action again just before the half moved into two additional minutes, with the keeper diving to his right to tip a Rodrigues effort away for a corner.
Mills fired across goal from what proved to be the last opportunity before the referee’s half-time whistle, meaning the Mariners remained one down at the interval but were still very much in the contest.
Bodin replaced Rodrigues for the home side before the restart and after a quiet opening to the second half, a Clifton cross was claimed by Beadle at the second attempt.
A strike by Mills was blocked by Rodgers on 55 minutes, before an effort from Hunt was blocked at the other end after a break which also involved Khan and Clifton. Town kept possession but a cross from Glennon went out for a goal kick.
Mills was unable to get to a cross at the other end and moments later, Wilson and Eisa were sent on in place of Pyke and Khan as the away side made a double-substitution.
The Mariners were growing in confidence at the hour mark and a foul on Hunt gave them a free kick on the left. They were unable to cause a problem from the free kick though, as it was played short by Glennon to Hunt, who caught Brannagan with a late challenge and was booked.
Cartwright was equal to a shot from Mills on 65 minutes, then Maher had to turn a Murphy cross behind for a corner. The ball from the flag was returned into the box from the opposite flank for Bodin but his header was brilliantly kept out by Cartwright from close range.
Tyler Goodrham and Marcus Browne replaced Mills and Murphy as Oxford boss Des Buckingham looked to his bench, then Wilson went close to an equaliser after a run and through-ball from Eisa, only for Beadle to make a good save.
Cartwright raced out of his penalty area to deny Harris on 72 minutes, before a home corner was headed over the bar by Bodin.
The game remained in the balance as Town looked for an equaliser but their task became tougher on 75 minutes when Oxford doubled their advantage. A Brannagan cross from the left was met by BODIN, who headed past Cartwright from close range.
Ainley and Holohan replaced Clifton and Conteh as the Mariners made changes in midfield, with Gatlin O’Donker coming on in place of Browne in the yellow of the home side soon afterwards.
Town were looking for a way back into the contest as the clock ticked beyond the 80-minute mark and they went close when Wilson was denied by another good save from Brighton and Hove Albion loanee Beadle. Rose was unable to get to the rebound.
Josh McEachran replaced Harris as Oxford made the latest change and a great save by Cartwright stopped them from stretching their lead to three goals as he kept out a strike from Bodin.
Four added minutes were played at the end of the game and a near-post shot from Rose was stopped by Beadle.
Town continued to go forward and a Glennon free kick flew over the bar but they were unable to test the keeper again and the final whistle brought their cup campaign to an end.
The focus now switches back to the league campaign, with Crewe Alexandra set to visit Blundell Park for David Artell’s first home game in charge of the Mariners on Saturday.