Plymouth Argyle missed out on a place in the last eight of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy after a penalty shoot-out defeat by Oxford United at Home Park last night.
The Pilgrims only have their npower League Two campaign to focus on between now and the end of the season. They had taken the lead with a goal from Alex MacDonald, who was making the last appearance of a three-month loan spell from Burnley, in the 20th minute.
Oxford equalised in the 66th minute with a header from substitute James Constable after goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin failed to deal with a cross into the 18-yard area.
It remained 1-1 until full-time, with Argyle right-back Durrell Berry sent off for a second bookable offence in the 84th minute. The tie was then settled by penalties, with Oxford goalkeeper Ryan Clarke making two saves as his side came out on top 3-1.
Oxford had a lot of the early possession, and when Alfie Potter broke into the box in the fifth minute his shot was blocked by Gilmartin.
The Pilgrims threatened for the first time when a low 20-yard shot from midfielder Mark Molesley was saved by Clarke. The visitors had another chance in the ninth minute when Sean Rigg pulled the ball wide of the left post following a throw-in from right-back Damian Batt.
Molesley made a good start to the game for Argyle and had a surging run forward ended by a trip from Oxford centre-back Jake Wright.
Argyle were awarded a free-kick inches outside the penalty area and MacDonald's strike deflected out of play off the defensive wall. There was no corner, though, as referee Roger East spotted an infringement by the Pilgrims.
There was a scare for Gilmartin in the 16th minute when he slipped as he came outside the penalty area to deal with a through ball from left-back Liam Davis.
Gilmartin regained his balance in time, before Rigg could get to the ball before him, and made his clearance.
It continued to be a very open contest, with Berry having a shot which hit the base of the left post.
The ball bounced across the face of the goal but none of Berry's team-mates could apply the finishing touch.
Argyle did take the lead in the 20th minute, however, when MacDonald scored direct from a free-kick after a foul on Paris Cowan-Hall.
MacDonald fired the ball into the penalty area from a position out wide on the left and it ended up in the opposite top corner of the net.
Argyle went close to grabbing a second goal on the half-hour mark when MacDonald slotted a pass into the path of Cowan-Hall. He tried a first-time shot from 12 yards out but Clarke made a good block, and it remained 1-0 to Argyle at the half-time break.
Molesley, in only his second game for the Pilgrims, fired wide from distance at the start of the second half. The 30-year-old on-loan Bournemouth player was not only getting into good shooting positions, but was working hard to break up Oxford attacks.
Cowan-Hall also went close with a 25-yard drive as Argyle went in search of a second goal. Clarke pushed away a curling low cross-shot from MacDonald before, in the 62nd minute substitute Constable put Oxford on level terms with his sixth goal of the season.
Gilmartin tried to punch clear a right-wing cross, under pressure from Rigg, but only succeeded in sending it towards Constable.
The substitute then headed the ball over the Argyle 'keeper and into the net
Oxford could have taken a 2-1 lead soon afterwards when the ball was cut back to Batt by Constable and his fierce shot flew high over the bar.
Argyle made their first substitution in the 68th minute, when striker Nick Chadwick made way for Rhys Griffiths.
Molesley then went close for the Pilgrims with a fierce angled shot from 20 yards, which flew wide of the left post, as he continued to impress.
Argyle had another chance when Gurrieri was picked out by a precise cross from Cowan-Hall. The Argentinian was unmarked but could not direct the ball on target.
Rigg fired across the face of goal for United from a tight angle after breaking into the box. Molesley then sent another long-range shot narrowly wide, this time from 25 yards, as both sides tried to settle the tie without the need for penalties. Soon afterwards, Molesley was replaced by substitute Jamie Lowry.
Berry was sent off in the 84th minute for a second bookable offence, after a needless foul on Rigg, leaving Argyle to complete the tie with ten players. The full-back will be suspended for the League Two game against York City at Home Park on Saturday.
It stayed 1-1 until full time, and the penalty shoot-out took place at the Devonport End. Griffiths went first and scored, but Gurrieri hit the top of the crossbar and Clarke saved from Lowry and Maxime Blanchard. Oxford progressed to the southern semi-finals with penalties from Rigg, Adam Chapman and Davis.
Plymouth Argyle (4-4-1-1): Gilmartin; Berry, Nelson, Blanchard, Bhasera; Cowan-Hall (Harvey 90), Molesley (Lowry 83), Hourihane, Gurrieri; MacDonald; Chadwick (Griffiths 68). Substitutes (not used): Cole (gk), Richards.
Goal: MacDonald 20.
Bookings: Berry (two), Griffiths, Hourihane.
Sent off: Berry 84.
Oxford United (4-3-3): Clarke; Batt, Raynes, Wright, Davis; Chapman, Cox (Constable 55), Forster-Caskey; Potter, Marsh (Heslop 55), Rigg. Substitutes (not used): Brown (gk), Worley, O'Brien.
Goal: Constable 62.
Referee: R East (Wiltshire).