The Rocks got 2013 off to a losing start despite taking the lead against Sussex rivals Whitehawk.
Ashley-Paul Robinson scored from the spot after Lewis Stockford was fouled but that was as good as it got for the Rocks as the leaders showed their strength by hitting back for victory.
The defeat leaves the Rocks eighth in the Ryman premier table.
The Rocks went into their first game of 2013 with some fine home form behind them – their last league defeat at the Lane having come on October 23.
But they were up against a Whitehawk team whose last league loss anywhere was on October 13 and who had gone top of the division with a run of five wins and five draws from their past ten games.
There was a surprise new name in the home starting XI – winger Jordan Clarke, who has been recruited from Carshalton after impressing against the Rocks earlier in the season. Whitehawk’s line-up included ex-Rocks Mark Knee and James and Tommy Fraser.
The rain that seems to have been ever-present over the Christmas and new year period was a distant memory with Nyewood Lane bathed in bright sunshine for kick-off.
The Hawks had the first corner in only the second minute but the cross was too long. The Rocks’ first attack saw Jon Marzetti get forward to send in a cross from the right but Whitehawk dealt with it.
In the ninth minute Marzetti needed treatment after coming off worst in a full-blooded challenge that saw the Rocks player ruled against.
It was a fairly low-key opening 15 minutes, with neither keeper called into serious action.
Hakeem Araba sent a header over the bar from Danny Mills’ cross from the right.
Marzetti hadn’t recovered from his earlier knock and had to be replaced by Daryl Wollers.
James Fraser was next in the wars, needing attention for a kick to the leg, but was soon back on.
Jefferson Louis had half a sight of goal after a flick-on but he drifted wide and Stuart Axten got across to block his shot.
The Rocks weren’t looking too potent and a lofted ball into the area by James Crane that ended with a foul on Hawks keeper Chris Winterton was the best they could do.
Clarke’s weaving runs inside off the left flank were beginning to cause Whitehawk a few problems and it was from a free-kick he won 30 yards out that the Rocks won a 28th-minute penalty from which they took the lead.
Ashley-Paul Robinson’s free-kick was cleared but eventually played to Lewis Stockford, whose run to the byline was stopped by a trailing leg from Hawks skipper Paul Armstrong. It was a clear penalty and Robinson put it away after his usual slow-motion walk-up.
Amid the excitement, James Fraser had to give into his earlier injury and hobble off to the dressing room, to be replaced by Joe Keehan.
Robinson set up a good chance for a second nine minutes before the break when he robbed his marker and fed Wills. His cross was just right for Stockford, running into the box, but he got under his header too much and it was gathered comfortably by Winterton.
Immediately Whitehawk broke and drew level – Araba finding space down the right for a low ball across the six-yard box which was sidefooted home by Josh Jones.
The game was becoming more open and Terry Dodd did well to reach a Robinson pass and pull it across goal from the byline, but it was cleared.
As Whitehawk took it straight to the other end, sub Wollers was booked for hauling down Mills.
From the free-kick the Hawks took the lead. Jones swung it into the ares left-footed and Tommy Fraser was free of attention as he rose to glance a header past Craig Stoner.
The referee had suddenly taken a liking to his cards and Axten saw yellow, somewhat harshly, for bringing down Araba as he tried to turn him inside the Whitehawk half.
Whitehawk were fast out of the blocks after the restart and Tommy Fraser beat two men before setting up Araba for a low shot that Stoner did well to palm away. They followed that with another dangerous attack from which Raphael Rossi-Blanco almost hooked the ball in at the far post.
The Rocks fans were shouting, rather optimistically, for a penalty as Axten was wrestled off the ball at a corner.
Araba surprised Stoner by trying one from 30 yards that didn’t look like it had much power but forced the keeper to push it behind for a corner.
Louis brought another good low save out of Stoner with a shot from 20 yards on 57 minutes.
Clarke was seeing plenty of the ball for the Rocks but miskicked one cross over Winterton’s bar. Robinson crossed well from the left but it was just too long for Stockford.
Doug Tuck replaced Stockford with 65 minutes gone.
Jones got away down the Whitehawk left and floated a cross to the far post, where Mills nodded well over.
The game became a little sterile as the Rocks tried to find a way to salvage at least a point.
Axten was guilty of gifting possession to Whitehawk on 73 minutes and Tommy Fraser tried to make him pay with a curling shot that Stoner leapt to gather.
Robinson escaped his marker’s attentions down the left to fire over a cross that Rossi-Blanco had to head clear from beneath the crossbar. The corner led to a scramble that the Rocks couldn’t quite turn into a goal.
Mills was replaced by Jerahl Hughes for the visitors, while Ben Andrews came on for Beck and went up front.
Ten minutes were left when Dodd had a goalbound shot blocked after confusion between Winterton and his defenders.
But Whitehawk made sure of victory on 87 minutes when Rossi-Blanco looped a header over Stoner and in from a Jones free-kick. The Rocks were unhappy about the award of the kick as the visitors attacked down the left – they felt Araba had sat on the ball, preventing Crane from being able to clear it.
Axten looked like he’d reduce the deficit in the 90th minute when he met a Clarke free-kick at the far post but his downward header trickled across the goal and wide.
Man of the match for the Rocks was named as Wills on a rather forgettable afternoon for the green army.
Rocks: Stoner, Marzetti, Stockford, Crane, Axten, John, Beck, Wills, Dodd, Robinson, Clarke. Subs: Andrews, Tuck, Pearce, Wollers, Boyle.
Whitehawk: Winterton, Mills, Knee, Armstrong, Lawrence, Rossi-Blanco, Jones, louis, Araba, J Fraser, T Fraser. Subs: Keehan, Walker, Hughes, Kanadu-Yaidam, Onahoua.
Ref: C Nzenga (Portsmouth)
The Rocks host Carshalton on Saturday.