Alfreton Town were denied by the woodwork no less than three times as they were beaten 1-0 by Curzon Ashton at the lmpact Arena on Saturday.
The Reds had emerged from the blocks raring to go, but after forcing three corners in as many minutes it was home keeper Fabian Spiess who needed to save from Paul Ennis.
Craig Westcarr latched on to Wes Harding’s 11th minute cross to send a header crashing against the underside of the Curzon crossbar, but play swung immediately to the other end and Spiess had to be alert when Todd Jordan’s attempted headed clearance fell to Niall Cummins.
The visitors struck in the 14th minute when Connor Hampson’s header from eight yards from a right-wing cross entered the net via keeper and bar, and for a short while Alfreton looked shell-shocked.
Four minutes later though skipper Dan Bradley hammered a 30 yarder against the foot of the post with the rebound reaching Paul Clayton rather too sharply for the striker to take advantage.
Ryan Wilson headed over from a Bradley cross, Westcarr scuffed his shot wide with keeper Hakan Burton rooted to the spot and Niall Heaton then saw his header from Wilson’s 36th minute corner cleared off the line by Hampson.
Just before the break Spiess once again had to block as Joe Guest played Ennis through, then two minutes into the second half Clayton glanced a header wide from another Bradley cross.
The much anticipated return of Liam Hearn heralded the revival of the lethal partnership with Clayton that had been a major contributory factor to the Reds winning the Conference North title five years earlier, the latter unfortunately forced to limp out of the game though just nine minutes after Hearn had come on for Wilson.
Hearn’s 57th minute header from a Heaton cross needed parrying by Burton, then Cecil Nyoni headed wide from another Heaton cross, Curzon riding their luck two minutes from time when Westcarr’s corner was fumbled by the keeper with Guest clearing off the line.
Right at the end, with six minutes of added time having been played, Hearn forced a header against the upright from a Bradley cross and the Reds knew it just wasn’t going to be their day.
ALFRETON: Spiess; Harding, Jordan, McGowan, Heaton, Nyoni, Wilson (Hearn 52), Monkhouse (Kennedy 45), Bradley, Westcarr, Clayton (Smith 61).
Subs not used: Doyle, Garnett.
CURZON: Burton; Tomsett, Guest, Hunt, D.Hall, Hampson, Rowney, Howard, Cummins (Brooke 82), Ennis (R.Hall 78), Wright (Gorman 45).
Subs not used: Watson, Mason.
REF: Declan Bourne.