Andy Morrison blasted an 'appalling' penalty decision during the 3-2 loss to Airbus and believes it could ultimately cost Gap Connah's Quay a place in the top six.
Leading 2-1 with less than 20 minutes remaining, Nomads director of football Morrison saw referee Kevin Parry award a free-kick against Les Davies after the striker looked to have been brought down by Airbus midfielder Ashley Williams.
To rub salt in the wound, Airbus struck twice in the last seven minutes through sub Jamie Murphy and Tony Gray to cement their top six spot and leave Nomads relying on a positive result against The New Saints on January 16.
Morrison was staggered to see the official penalise Davies for simulation, but not receive a second caution, having seen his side give their all.
"We've done everything in our power to get a result from the game and something like that is very, very hard to take," bemoaned Morrison. "We should not be talking about an incident such as that. It is a simple decision.
"It will take us a long time to get over that, a long time.
"It feels like we've been punched in the stomach because at 3-1 up we win the game."
Morrison, who saw his side take a
2-1 lead through on-loan Robbie Parry and central defender Paul Linwood, continued: "We come out for the second-half and go 2-1 up.
"Then you have to dig in, you are at Airbus and everyone knows the importance of the game and how massive it was for both clubs.
"You dig in, you are resolute and you are brave. There are lads out on the pitch, who should not be on the pitch, but they have given me everything.
"You are waiting for your chance to counter, you get your chance and get a penalty. Everybody in this ground knows it is a penalty. Ashley Williams has gone to ground on the blindside, Les has got there first and he's kicked him.
"It is one of the most appalling decisions I have ever seen to miss it. It's staggering that you can miss it.
"It's a poor, poor decision and ultimately it has cost us massively.
"To go 3-1 up at that stage of the game we don't lose.
"Listen, I know what Airbus are about and how difficult it is here and we might have got a point, but we certainly wouldn't have lost the game.
"I can't get my head around the decision and ultimately that could be the difference between Connah's Quay getting into the top six or fighting in the bottom six. That one decision."
Morrison, who has completed the signing of former Wrexham loan man Nathan Woolfe, felt the penalty decision was easier than the free-kick which led to Ian Kearney's opener for Airbus.
"It's not a difficult decision," said Morrison. "The difficult decision is the one in the first minute when nobody is appealing for anything and you get a free-kick against you on the edge of the box inside 20 seconds.
"I've never seen a free-kick given for that in 30 years in the game.
"You are setting a precedent there, any contact then we are going to give fouls for it.
"We've not dealt with it and they've scored, but after that we've been magnificent."
For scorer Kearney it was a first goal for nearly 15 months following an injury lay-off, the central defender delighted to have made an impact at both ends.
"I do like to get on the scoresheet every now and then," said Kearney with a broad smile.
"I will take a goal and an assist."
Kearney's goal sparked joyous scenes at the Airfield, although Gray's winner was met with wild celebrations from players and fans alike.
Asked about the winner, Kearney declared: "I don't think we've celebrated a goal like that in the three and a half years we've been in this league.
"The importance of the win is so evident.
"At 2-1 down you think 'is it going to happen?' To make it happen so late makes it that much greater."
Airbus director of football Andy Preece insisted his players could afford to relax for a few days after they made sure of their involvement in the top six.
"It is massive to be in there, we can let the others worry about getting in the top six now while we relax for a few days," said Preece. "This season there is nothing guaranteed for any team because everyone is so evenly matched.
"I think this is the biggest one for us so far because we still had three of our back four out.
"It's been an amazing effort, but I don't think we will get much credit for it.
"When you look how many lads have been out and how many academy players have played and started, it is a huge achievement for everybody at the club.
"Sometimes we've been questioned but we've bounced back and we need huge credit."
Marc Williams, Danny Hughes and Alan Bull found the net as second placed Llandudno cruised to a 3-0 win at Bangor City to secure top flight football for another season, while Newtown's top six involvement is up in the air following a 4-1 loss to The New Saints.
Scoring for Saints were Adrian Cieslewicz, Jamie Mullan, Ryan Edwards and Michael Wilde, who struck his 150th for the club, with Neil Mitchell replying for Newtown.
Aberystwyth are also sweating on a top six place after losing 2-1 at home to Haverfordwest County, who won thanks to a double from Luke Borrelli either side of a leveller from Stuart Jones.
Bala Town and Rhyl played out a goalless draw at Maes Tegid and it was a similar outcome between Carmarthen and Port Talbot.
See full story in the Leader