Manager Paul Warne rued his side’s missed chances as Rotherham United suffered last-gasp heartache against possible play-off opponents Plymouth Argyle at Home Park.
The Millers were drawing 1-1 in time added on when they had a goal by Caolan Lavery ruled out for offside and the home side then won a disputed penalty which they converted to take all three points.
Rotherham, already guaranteed a League One play-off berth, had plenty of opportunities to seal victory but failed to convert them.
“We could have been 2-1 up with two minutes to play,” Warne lamented. “But they have gone up the other end and got the goal they need. It’s hugely disappointing, I thought we played really well.
“Plymouth started the game brightly, but from then on I thought we were the better side. It’s a pity we didn’t take our chances when we had them. Their hoalkeeper was the man of the match, which says a lot about our performance away from home.”
The Millers are almost certain to complete the regular campaign in fourth spot. Argyle, in seventh, are pushing to finish in the top six and the two sides could meet again in the end-of-season promotion shoot-out
Richie Towell put the Millers ahead with a fine first-half finish but Joel Grant levelled for the hosts after the break before the late controversy when Graham Carey despatched his 92nd-minute spot-kick.
Midfielder Will Vaulks was adjudged to have fouled Carey in the penalty area but the Rotherham man was adamant afterwards that his challenge had been fair and he had taken the ball.
The visitors, who also had a first-half strike by David Ball disallowed for offside, had been looking the more likely victors.
Warne, having watched replays, said that Ball’s effort was correctly not given but added that Lavery’s ‘goal’ should have stood.
“It’s the smallest of margins,” the boss said. “The lads are hurting. They don’t want to lose football matches. We have to learn to be more ruthless going into the play-offs.
“Will went to ground for the penalty, which is always dangerous, but I thought he got the ball. I was disappointed in that and I don’t think my team deserved it.”
After Rotherham keeper Marek Rodak had twice foiled Plymouth, Towell’s composed shot, following Ball’s pass, put the Millers into a 33rd-minute lead.
Grant equalised in the 56th minute, the striker working a yard of space before curling the ball past the outstretched hand of Rodak.
Carey, with Plymouth’s play-off hopes resting on him, made no mistake from the spot at the death. Rodak dived the right way but had no chance.
The Millers had come within a whisker of an opener on 20 minutes when Ryan Williams latched on to a loose ball and clipped in a delicate centre for Ball to volley home from close range, but the assistant referee’s flag meant no goal.
Remi Matthews was equal to other first-half attempts by Ball and Williams, while the home keeper also thwarted Williams after the interval and did well to prevent Towell scoring a second.
Rotherham passed up on a gilt-edged chance to regain the lead when Towell’s pass was superbly controlled by Ball who sent substitute Jon Taylor clear.
The winger lost out in a one-on-one with Matthews as the Argyle keeper smothered his shot.
Lavery turned in sub Joe Newell’s cross but his celebration was cut short by another offside flag, then Carey fell under Vaulks’ challenge and picked himself up to be the late hero.
“If you don’t take your chances in games, then you don’t win,” Warne reflected. “It’s easy to criticise on the two goals we conceded, but I was critical on the chances we missed.”
Plymouth 4-3-3): Matthews; Threlkeld, Vyner, Bradley Sawyer; Sarcevic (Ainsworth 66), Fox, Ness (Songo’o 90); Lameiras (Taylor-Sinclair 86), Grant, Carey. Subs not used: Miller, Letheren, Fletcher, Rooney.
Rotherham (4-4-2): Rodak; Emmanuel, Ihiekwe, Wood, Purrington; Forde (Taylor 67), Towell, Vaulks, Williams (Newell 77); Ball, Smith (Lavery 71). Subs not used: Price, Cummings, Ajayi, Palmer.
Goals: Grant 56, Carey pen 90+2 (Plymouth); Towell 33 (Rotherham).
Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire).
Attendance: 13,407 (577).