A brace from Carl Winchester wasn’t enough to prevent Forest Green Rovers falling to a 3-2 defeat at home to Port Vale.
Two goals from Tom Pope saw him take his tally for the season to 10 as he added to an opening strike from Shaun Brisely to put the visitors in control of the tie.
Winchester netted from the penalty spot with 12 minutes of the game remaining and with Mitchell Clark seeing red in the 88th minute, there was time for Winchester to get a second with his head.
Pope then saw red deep into stoppage time, but despite the resulting free-kick dropping awkwardly in the box, FGR were unable to turn home the equaliser.
Head coach Mark Cooper made three changes to the side that lost narrowly on Saturday to Walsall, switching to two strikers, with the return of Matty Stevens alongside Josh March, who netted his second goal since joining in January at the weekend.
Elliott Frear and Dom Bernard also came back into the team, with Robert Hall, Kevin Dawson and Jack Aitchison dropping to the bench.
In Cooper’s pre-match press briefing, he was calling on his player to start on the front foot and take the game to the visitors and he got just that, with FGR twice going close in the opening 10 minutes.
With seven minutes on the clock, March was invited to run at the Port Vale defence, with numbers around him, and he chose to let fly, only a smart save from Scott Brown denying him and palming the ball away to safety.
It was even closer two minutes later as the rippling of the side netting had some thinking in the home end that the lead had been taken.
A free-kick was half headed clear, recycled out wide by Ebou Adams to Frear, and his cross was met by Stevens at the near post but headed just wide of the target.
The first warning sign from the visitors came in the 13th minute when skipper Carl Winchester showed all his experience to be back on the line to deny Pope a certain goal, as the ball is cut back to the centre forward in space in the box.
However, it as from the resulting set-piece that Valiants took the lead, completely against the run of play.
The corner was flicked on at the near post and went all the way through to the back post where Brisley was on hand to fire into the roof of the net.
In the 23rd minute, FGR were forced into their first change of the game as Odin Bailey couldn’t continue from a knock received from an earlier foul from Rhys Browne.
Vale were continuing to press and in the 29th minute found Christian Montano in space in the box, but his shot flashed across the face of goal and out for a throw on the far side.
Vale got their second of the half when Pope had the ball fed to his feet in the box by David Worrall and he turned to fire home.
Following a lengthy stoppage for a worrying injury to Adams, FGR went agonisingly close to halving the deficit on the stroke of half time.
Winchester delivered the ball to the back post and Liam Kitching was able to keep the ball in play, putting it back into the mix, only for Stevens, on the turn, to watch on as Brown pulled off a fine stop under his own bar.
FGR didn’t let their heads drop in the second half and started playing some of their best stuff since the opening 10 minutes.
In the 65th minute Winchester cut off the right flank and fired in a low, stinging shot that Brown couldn’t hold onto, the keeper relieved to see the cleared behind for a corner.
Moments later, Aitchison was trying his luck from distance, but his shot from distance was always drifting just wide of the top corner.
The mountain for Forest Green began look insurmountable in the 70th minute when referee Trevor Kettle was pointing to the penalty spot for Vale, after Adams had clipped the heels of Mitchell Clark in the box.
Pope stepped up and despite Logan guessing the right way, was beaten by a well-placed spot-kick.
It was from the spot kick that Forest Green were presented a way back into the game, Adams this time on the other end of the foul and Winchester stepping up and firing low past Brown.
Things could have been made interesting with 10 minutes to go when Frear put the ball back across goal from the far post, but Rawson could only fire over the bar on the volley.
Vale were reduced to 10 men in the 88th minute when Mitchell Clark was shown a straight red for a late foul on Kitching deep in the FGR half.
Winchester headed home a Frear cross in the 95th minute before Pope got his second booking a minute later to set up a box office finish.
With Logan up for the resulting set-piece, the ball dropped agonisingly in the box as the referee blew the final whistle to curtail any hopes of an unlikely comeback.
Forest Green XI: Logan, Bernard (Dawson 61’), Rawson, Winchester (c), Stevens (Collins 75’), Adams, Frear, Kitching, March, Stokes, Bailey (Aitchison 23’)
Unused subs: Thomas, Williams, Hall, McGinley
Port Vale XI: Brown, Joyce, Legge (c), Worrall, Pope, Conlon (Atkinson 71’), Montano, Browne, Burgess (Oyeleke 77’), Clark, Brisley
Unused subs: Maddison, Cullen, Smith, Evans, Bennett
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Attendance: 1,682 (215)
Man of the match: Ebou Adams
Match sponsor: All Fleet Services
Ball sponsor: KB Coaches
Next time out: Oldham Athletic, Boundary Park, Saturday, February 15, 3pm