Frustrated Belper 1sts head coach Ben Lamb said there was no margin for error as his side’s hopes of winning the Midlands Premier Division suffered another setback.
A second straight defeat against Rugby and East Warwickshire, this time 3-2, left Belper a point ahead at the top with three games remaining.
Two goals in the final eight minutes turned the game for the hosts as they continued their quest to remain in the league.
Lamb said: We paid the price for not seeing the game out.
“At 2-1 up our decision making in the circle was poor.
“We played as individuals and did not function as the team that has served us so well until this point.
“When on top, you must take your chances. We worked hard to get back in the game and then threw it away late on.
“It was a solemn dressing room after the game; the boys know they let themselves down.
“It is still in our hands, we just have no margin for error now.”
Belper enjoyed the greater possession and threatened the Rugby goal early on, but the home side grew in confidence and took the lead from their first penalty corner through Szymon Oszyjczyk.
Belper struggled in the final third and their frustration increased, but the introduction of Damian Jarzembowski turned the game.
Chris Beastall, making his first appearance after a long injury, was also introduced.
He nearly made an instant impact, turning sharply in the circle and firing in before the umpire adjudged him to have used his back stick.
Jarzembowski, having squandered a couple of good chances earlier, did level though as he turned his man and fired into the corner.
Jarzembowski grabbed his second after half-time as he again turned in the circle to fire in.
But Belper squandered advantages to secure victory and were punished late on.
Ashley Blakemore was yellow carded after being judged to have fouled Oszyjczyk, which resulted in a penalty corner that led to a penalty stroke.
Oszyjczyk dispatched the stroke to equalise and Rugby exploited their man advantage to take the lead.
But from the final play of the game Belper almost levelled when Sam Dixon saw his penalty corner effort saved on the line by Rugby skipper Richard Major.