Two impressive unbeaten runs came to an end on Tuesday night and Ilkeston only had themselves to blame.
This last-gasp defeat to Gresley was not only the first time the Robins had lost in 17 games, but also their first ever defeat in the Derbyshire Senior Cup since the club’s formation.
Manager Kevin Wilson insisted afterwards that his side had got what they deserved, a lacklustre display ultimately punished by goals at the very start and the very end of the game, the latter giving them virtually no time to muster a response.
But having been out of action for a fortnight, it showed, and much improvement will be required if any kind of sustained promotion charge is to take place.
It took Gresley just one minute and 40 seconds to open the scoring.
Former Robin Kieran O’Connell did well to get to the left-hand edge of the penalty area and his cross was turned in by Chris Richards who had nipped in front of keeper Jordan Smith.
Gresley continued to look the better side early on as the Robins struggled to keep possession, but the scores were levelled on 11 minutes as Eddy Samba received the ball just outside the penalty area and fired in a low shot which found the corner of the net.
Gresley responded well and continued to look full of energy going forward, particularly O’Connell.
Skipper Jamie Barrett was next to go close as he headed Jack Langston’s corner just over the bar. Langston himself putting a dipping half volley wide of the post moments later.
Samba’s header from a James Reid corner at the other end was then deflected wide before Samba was then sent clear but Roberts got to the ball first, Rai Simons’ follow-up cleared off the line by Matt Roome.
O’Connell and Richards then nearly recreated Gresley’s opening goal but this time Richards blazed over from O’Connell’s pull back just after the half hour mark.
At this stage it was a very open and watchable game, O’Connell having a penalty claim turned down when Matt Baker dived in just before half-time.
Having scored at the start of the half, Gresley then very nearly scored right at the end of it, Barrett again too high at the back post, this time from a Langston free-kick out wide.
The second-half was very quiet in terms of chances, though a few lively challenges flew in which eventually saw David Morgan withdrawn from the action given he was looking more than a little tetchy in midfield following some rough treatment.
Lucas Harrison nearly scored for Gresley although he didn’t mean to, his mis-hit cross bouncing off the top of the crossbar on 70 minutes, Luke Edwards then blazing over after a free-kick dropped to him on the edge of the box.
Edwards was a big threat and then cut inside but fired straight at Smith, before what had become a rare chance at the other end saw Akil Wright volley horribly over following a Reid free-kick.
The hosts nearly scored in the opening seconds of stoppage time as Alex Steadman cut inside and saw his goalbound effort cleared off the line by Jack Lane, but the decisive moment was still to come.
Subs Ryan King and Luke Shaw challenged in the air with the pair landing in a heap and with Shaw on top. That was somewhat controversially deemed a foul by the referee and Steadman proceeded to slam home the spot-kick in the 93rd minute.
And that was that, the Robins made to pay for a very poor display in the second-half but Gresley deservedly claiming their spot in the final.
Gresley: 1 Liam Roberts 2 Matt Roome 3 Lucas Harrison 4 Mitch Hanson 5 Jamie Barrett (c) 6 Martin Smyth 7 Chris Richards 8 Kieran O’Connell 9 Luke Edwards (Ryan King 83) 10 Jack Langston 11 Alex Steadman. Subs not used: Hayden Johns, Rob Mulonga, John Guy, Russell Peel
Ilkeston: 1 Jordan Smith 2 James Reid 3 Akil Wright 4 Matt Baker 5 Joe Maguire (c) 6 Jack Lane 7 David Morgan (Luke Shaw 71) 8 Callum Chettle 9 Eddy Samba 10 Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson (Wilfried Gnahore 67) 11 Rai Simons. Subs not used: Arinse Uade, Mike Williams, Edouard Shoenecker
Ref: Tim Walker
Star Robin: Jordan Smith