A bonkers bank holiday clash saw Horsham concede a 92nd-minute winner in a nine-goal thriller that they contrived to throw away a three-goal lead in.
The defeat to local rivals and Bostik League South East Division new boys Haywards Heath left Hornets boss Dominic Di Paola with a mixture of emotions.
The home side race into a 3-0 lead within 16 minutes thanks to strikes from Rob O’Toole, Darren Boswell and Tyrell Richardson-Brown.
But defensive errors cost Horsham after Heath first pulled a goal back fortuitously when Luc Doherty’s cross nestled into the net before half-time.
The visitors drew level during the second half when former Hornet Karl Akehurst and Lewis Finney appeared to have completed the comeback.
Horsham retook the lead through Chris Smith’s goal, yet there was to be more drama when another ex-Hornet Max Miller equalised again for the visitors, before Heath completed the turnaround two minutes into injury time when Finney pinched the points.
Di Paola said: “It was a great game for neutral. Seriously, we played superbly until they scored their second.
“First half we were excellent and the lucky cross/goal they scored kept them in the game.
“We came out in the second half and had a couple of great chances to kill the game off and were sloppy in taking them.
“Then I think the weekend’s game played a big part in our levels dropping and their second goal panicked us a bit. We just lacked some bite and energy and Haywards Heath got their tails up.
“It’s a hard one to put into words as we even went back ahead but I never felt confident we could see the game out.
“Fair play to Haywards Heath they never gave up and fought for everything but we should have been out of sight, our missed chances meant they were always in the game and our game management second half was poor.”
Horsham had comfortably seen off the same opponents in the Velocity Trophy last Tuesday, but Heath were to avenge that defeat and pick up their first-ever Step 4 points in the process.
Di Paola felt the impressive 1-0 FA Cup win over division-higher Carshalton Athletic effected his side in the second half. He added: “I think Heath having a Saturday off and us having such a hard game played a part as we visibly faded as the game went on.
“We had a plan but Joe Taylor and Will Hoare having to come off with knocks changed that but take nothing away from them, they showed great fighting spirit and never gave up.”
Horsham: Pelling, Taylor, Shelley, Lovegrove, McElliogott, Hoare, Harris, Hayward, Boswell, Richardson-Brown, O’Toole. Subs: Metcalf, Landais, Hartley, Smith, Harding.