Horsham encountered an intensity from Chichester seldom faced last season as they fell to a 39-30 defeat at their Sussex rivals in their first game in London 1 South East on Saturday.
Despite their ten-match winning run in the league, stretching back to December, coming to an end the Green and Whites can take plenty of positives.
Tom Johnson slotted an early penalty before Horsham conceded a try from quick phase play.
Johnson scored a second penalty, awarded after a good carry by Jamie Redmayne, but Chi countered with their second try following a break in the centres, which was well converted, to lead 12-6 after 18 minutes.
Johnson pegged back the lead with another penalty before Chichester maintained their nine-point advantage with a drop goal.
Horsham conceded a third following poor ball retention near their try line and a subsequent poor clearance kick as the hosts went into the break 22-9 up.
At the restart Horsham conceded a further try. After poorly receiving the kick-off a penalty was conceded and kicked to the corner. Chi scored from the driving maul to lead 29-9.
The entry of Vince Everitt and Nick Bell added impetus to Horsham’s play and the comeback started following a run and kick through from Johnson which was well chased by Everitt to score.
Joe Wilde then added a further try following a devastating break by Declan Nwachukwu from a kick to narrow the deficit to 29-23 after an hour.
But Chichester scored a converted try before Finlay Hillicks was yellow carded. Wilde scythed through the gap to set up Nwachukwu to score, converted by Johnson, to make it 36-30 with ten minutes to go.
The hosts then kicked a penalty on the stroke of full time meaning the visitors came away with nothing.
Horsham head coach Nick Stocker said: “Although a disappointing result, we are certainly focusing on the positives from a closely fought game with a good degree of fight demonstrated by all players taking the field.
“Our set piece went well both at scrum and lineout and when we finally got into our patterns we created several opportunities which, on another day, would have seen a different outcome.
“The problem however was a relatively slow start and gifting possession in dangerous positions which lead to a considerable half-time deficit.
“Our usual fluidity in the backs was lacking, both in attack and defence. However, when the players settled and we started to move the ball with more precision in the last 20 minutes, we had Chichester worried.
“Our team will learn quickly from this first game and look to bounce back with a win at home over promoted Beckenham.”
Horsham will hold a minute's silence before their home fixture against Beckenham on Saturday in memory of former player Richard Loughran who passed away on Monday.
Horsham: Watts; Nwachukwu, Wilde, Johnson, Condon, J Bell, Linfield, Cass, Preston, Fairs (N Bell), Whiting (Goward), Osgood, Redmayne Smith (Everitt), Hillicks.