Nine-man Berkhamsted lost ground in the SSML Premier Division title race as they were beaten 2-0 by Hoddesdon Town following first half dismissals of Frankie Jowle and keeper Carl Tasker.
The critical moment came in just the 10th minute when Jowle’s foot was raised in a challenge for the ball near the half way line and the referee brandished a red card for serious foul play.
Soon afterwards, both sides put headers over the bar; Jim Baldry for Berko from an Alex Campana cross and Ollie Sharman sending one over for Hoddesdon.
The home side looked like making the breakthrough when a forward tried to round Takser on the half hour mark, but he was felled in the are by the Comrades keepera.
After consulting his assistant, the referee awarded the penalty and sent Tasker off for denying an obvious goals scoring opportunity with his attempted tackle.
Comrades full-back Tom Carter took over between the sticks and dived well to his right to turn the spot kick past the post to keep Berko in the game.
The Comrades fought a heroic rear guard battle with just nine men for the last hour of the contest.
Campana battled on his own up front for Berko and nearly scored when he tried to round Lee Robinson up the hill in the first half.
Hoddesdon did not trouble Berko before the interval but they had a bit of a rethink at half-time and stand-in keeper Carter pulled off a good save to keep out a long shot from Charlie Edwards.
The match was into its second hour when Mark Summers got a free header to put Hoddesdon in front, so Berko sensibly used all three substitutes to keep the effort going despite the two-man deficit.
It proved to be Hoddesdon’s lucky day as a deflected Summers shot in stoppage time gave them a second goal after Berko had broken away several times to threaten equalisers from subs Jude Eboji and James Towell.
Berkhamsted: Tasker; Mead, Carter, Weeks, Baldry, Rodrigoe, Jowle, Hawes (Carbery), Campana(Eboji) , Chamberlain, Nash-Barker (Towell). Sub not used: Canham.
Elsewhere, Berko’s reserve side won 3-2 at home to Molesey Reserves in the Suburban League Challenge Cup.
They were three goals to the good at half-time, with Jordan Gilbert marking his debut with two goals and Nick Ward also netting.
As they had a 5-1 deficit from the first leg, that took the tie to 5-4 on aggregate. However, Molesey went through 7-4 after netting a couple of goals in the second half.
Berko have two home games this week. On Tuesday they are at home to Watford in the Herts Senior Cup, before bottom of the table Harefield United come to Broadwater in the SSML Premier Division on Saturday.
On Tuesday, December 8 Berko are away to Biggleswade United in another league game.