A highly controversial goal led to furious protests and a sending off for Horsham manager Gary Charman as the Hornets suffered a tough afternoon and defeat at Chipstead.
The visitors seemed to suffer from a lack of match practice and sharpness, having had a vast majority of their scheduled matches in December and January postponed due to the weather.
A poor refereeing decision did not help Horsham’s cause, but they did not perform as well they might have hoped on goalkeeper Michael Hunter’s final appearance for the club.
There was little action in the match until the home side opened the scoring after 18 minutes, with a rare mistake by Hunter to blame.
Chipstead’s Dan Moody collected the ball in space and had time to shoot. The winger scuffed his effort towards the near post, but the ball somehow went through the arms of Horsham’s popular keeper.
The Hornets responded to going behind admirably. Tony Nwachukwu and Billy-Joe King each whipped in a dangerous cross during an intense spell of pressure - the Chipstead defence buckled but did not break.
Billy Dunn worked space for a shot which was well saved by the feet of Chipstead keeper Milan Stojsavljevic, and Hunter pushed away a powerful drive from Will Turl.
The game’s second goal arrived just after the half hour mark and came as a huge blow to Horsham, Turl heading home a corner at the back post under little pressure.
Despite being two behind, Horsham still looked to be in the game. The visitors looked far more comfortable in attack than defence, Jamie Cade forcing a save and Junior Kaffo firing the rebound over the crossbar.
The game’s real talking point, and one that secured victory for Chipstead, came on 38 minutes.
Stef Joseph was flagged offside as he was played in behind the Horsham defence, with almost all the players on the pitch reacting to the linesman.
Joseph’s drive was saved by Hunter but the rebound was slotted in by Turl. Bizarrely, and to the shock of seemingly everyone else at the ground, the referee over-ruled his assistant and awarded Chipstead the goal.
Horsham’s players protested on the pitch, but it was Charman’s fury on the sideline that merited dismissal, to the disbelief of supporters of both sides.
There was still time for more controversy before the half time whistle, as Horsham were awarded a penalty when Billy Dunn’s free kick struck the arm of a Chipstead player in the wall.
It did not appear to be a deliberate offence, but the manner of Chipstead’s third goal softened the home side’s protests and Nwachukwu converted from 12 yards.
The second half failed to match the frantic pace of the first, Horsham’s string of postponements perhaps the reason for tired legs and a failed attempt a comeback.
Jahmahl King almost awarded the Hornets a lifeline with a thumping header, but Stojsavljevic was on hand to make a stunning save.
A Moody free kick was met at the back post by Ben Dyett, but his header landed just wide of Hunter’s goal.
It was a disappointing afternoon for the Hornets, who move on without Hunter, last year’s Supporters’ Player of the Year, and with the prospect of their manager facing a sideline ban.