TORQUAY United squandered a two-goal lead to suffer a painful defeat at Woking in a classic game of two halves.
The Gulls were rampant for the opening 45 minutes and should have led by more than the goals scored by Aaron Downes and Louis Briscoe, but it was soon to go wrong.
Yemi Odubade pulled one back early in the second period and Woking were level just after the hour through Josh Payne. United had lost all momentum and there was little surprise when Scott Rendell grabbed the three points with a late winner.
United boss Chris Hargreaves made two enforced changes from the weekend win over Kidderminster, with Levi Ives away on international duty and John Campbell suffering from a hamstring injury.
Ryan Bowman, who scored both goals as an early substitute for Campbell on Saturday, started in attack and Krystian Pearce was given the task of filling an unfamiliar role at left-back. Youth-team goalkeeper Daniel Lavercombe was included on the bench.
The stand-out name in the side selected by Woking manager Garry Hill was former Gull Brian Saah at centre-back, who recently joined the Cards on loan from Dagenham. Striker Rendell was another Woking player with Yellow history.
A decent start from the Gulls saw captain Luke Young feed the ball inside to Bowman on the edge of the penalty area but goalkeeper Martin Crowe was equal to the effort for the home side. Winger Courtney Cameron then had an effort on goal that was comfortable for the Cards.
United were the team controlling possession and Cameron was a definite early threat, as the team in Yellow were clearly keen to build on a confidence-building weekend.
After winning a corner on the left, Cameron’s deep cross was particularly inviting for Australian defender Downes, who was unable to stretch the neck muscles enough to trouble Crowe.
United were completely dominant against a side with realistic dreams of reaching the play-offs but a rapid exchange between Bowman and Briscoe saw the latter fire in a low shot that Crowe just managed to fingertip wide.
The subsequent corner was flashed over by Young, and Downes was the man who wanted to win the header more than any other, thundering a trademark finish into the bottom corner for a richly deserved opening goal.
The good suddenly got a whole lot better and Woking were left totally bewildered, as Bowman latched on to a pass down the line from Aaron Dawson to centre the ball for Briscoe, who finished superbly for a 2-0 lead.
It was excellent stuff from the Gulls and a remarkable example of how important confidence can be to the fortunes to a team, as Briscoe continued to be a menace against a Woking side struggling horribly in front of a disgruntled home crowd.
A shocking back-pass from Woking presented Bowman with the next chance but Crowe, this time, made the save. Briscoe was next to have a shot charged down and Toby Ajala was also denied by a desperate Cards’ defence.
Woking finally showed their worth as an attacking presence, whipping over a dangerous free-kick from the right and the Gulls were grateful to see the ball bounce clear off the post after a flicked header from Odubade.
Rendell was next to hit the woodwork for Woking and it was a horrible miss from the former Gull, and Cameron very nearly delivered the ultimate punishment with a swift break at the other end that finished up narrowly wide.
A tremendous first-half performance ended with James McQuilkin slipping a tidy ball wide to Briscoe, who whipped over an excellent cross that evaded the run of Bowman by a fraction.
United showed no sign of letting up on their dominance in the early stages of the second period, bursting into the box with an incisive run and firing inches wide of Crowe’s far post.
From nowhere, Woking were back in the game and it stemmed from a weaving run by John Goddard and his cross was thumped in at close range by Odubade. It was now a game seriously back in the balance.
Goals change games and Woking were the side in the ascendancy, surging down the left through Chris Arthur with a cross that needed a hurried clearance from Dawson. United were under intense pressure and it was now a real test of Yellow resolve.
The game was level from the next attack and United were left to rue a soft clearance that fell perfectly for Payne to lash past stranded Martin Rice, as a brilliant first-half display had disappeared all too quickly.
Youngster Liam Prynn was introduced for Bowman in United’s immediate response to their loss of the lead and the youth-team striker soon flashed over a cross that was cleared by Saah.
Prynn almost had his moment of glory on 75 minutes after bursting down the left channel and he opted for power with a low drilled shot, but Crowe stood up strong to make a big save for the home side.
Disaster then struck with an innocuous cross into the box and United failed to deal with the problem, allowing Rendell to sneak in behind the Yellow defence to stab home a very painful goal.
Ashley Yeoman was promptly introduced for Briscoe to help rescue the game but Woking were now completely on top, and Kevin Betsy was guilty of an unbelievable miss that should have killed the game.
No matter, game over.
Woking (4-4-2): 30 Michael Crowe; 21 Joey Jones, 4 Mark Ricketts, 24 Brian Saah, 32 Chris Arthur; 7 Josh Payne (12 Charles Banya 75), 8 Keiran Murtagh, 22 John Goddard, 11 Kevin Betsy; 17 Yemi Odubade (10 Giuseppe Sole 86), 9 Scott Rendell. Substitutes (not used): 15 John Nutter, 28 Lionel Stone, 31 Andy Little.
Booked: Goddard 72, Sole 90
United (4-4-2): 1 Martin Rice; 29 Aaron Dawson, 26 Ollivier Gueguen, 4 Aaron Downes, 5 Krystian Pearce; 10 Toby Ajala, 8 Luke Young (capt), 22 James McQuilkin, 11 Courtney Cameron; 7 Louis Briscoe (14 Ashley Yeoman 84), 9 Ryan Bowman (15 Liam Prynn 64). Substitutes (not used): 6 Ben Harding, 16 Courtney Richards, 31 Daniel Lavercombe (GK).
Booked: Gueguen 64
Referee: Justin Amey