Bradley Goldberg’s superb strike provided a fitting consolation for Hastings as they went down 4-1 at Middlesbrough in the third round of the FA Cup.
Hastings were trying to bridge a gap of 131 places in the pyramid and gave it a go but a tremendous performance from debut-making goalkeeper Liam O’Brien was in vain.
Nonetheless they did themselves proud in front 1,068 away fans.
The hosts were handed a golden chance to break the deadlock when they were awarded a 15th-minute penalty for a foul on Ishmael Miller but Miller’s weak spot-kick was saved by O’Brien, who joined on loan from Barnet on Friday.
Having battled hard to remain on level terms, Hastings fell behind on 22 minutes with a delightful chipped finish from Merouane Zemmama from 22 yards which found the top corner past an outstretched O’Brien.
Middlesbrough threatened to effectively wrap up the tie with a second goal on 36 minutes as Miller skipped clear after Matt Whitehead slipped but player-boss Sean Ray made a superb recovery tackle.
That prompted a good finish to the half by Hastings as Jamie Crellin’s on-target shot was blocked for a corner after Ray nodded down Lee Carey’s free-kick.
Then on 44 minutes Bailo Camara’s cross-shot was almost steered into his own net by defender Andy Halliday but keeper Jason Steele saved one-handed at the expense of a corner.
There was one final scare for Hastings in first-half stoppage time when O’Brien was forced to turn a low shot from Miller around his right-hand post.
Middlesbrough doubled their advantage within two minutes of the restart as a corner by Luke Williams from the left found its way across the area for Halliday to sweep home from close range.
Halliday should have had another two minutes later but the impressive O’Brien saved well with his legs.
Hastings threatened a response when Lee Carey’s chipped shot from 20 yards was touched on to a post by keeper and behind for a corner from which Josh Jirbandey’s header was blocked.
O’Brien came to United’s rescue again on 63 minutes with another smart save to deny Zemmama.
The Moroccan was not to be denied as his 20-yard effort on 68 minutes took a heavy deflection to beat O’Brien.
But Hastings replied immediately with Goldberg bursting forward and unleashing a shot from 25 yards which found the top corner.
Miller provided the final goal five minutes from time with a low shot into the bottom corner.
Full analysis, reaction and pictures in The Argus on Monday.