Ebbsfleet remain in the National League relegation zone after a controversial goal helped consign them to defeat at Kidderminster on Saturday.
Fleet boss Dennis Kutrieh will no doubt be furious with the standard of the officials - and with just cause - after the home side escaped being reduced to 10 men just moments before scoring twice in first-half stoppage time. The second goal quite clearly should not have stood but the defending for the opener saw a lapse in concentration at the back.
Ebbsfleet kept the same starting line-up that won so impressively at Oldham seven days earlier.
They were put under early pressure from the hosts, who started brightly. They nearly had a sixth-minute opener after Josh Wright and Toby Edser’s attempts to play the ball out of defence coughed up possession but Ashley Hemmings dragged his shot wide of the upright.
Ebbsfleet responded and broke at the other end through Dominic Poleon, who was allowed to run to the penalty area before keeper Christian Dibble turned his deflected shot behind for a corner.
The hosts felt they had a penalty claim when Fleet keeper Mark Cousins was out smartly to clear at the feet of Bailey Hobson. The home side felt it was a foul and striker Amari Morgan-Smith was booked for his protests.
Ebbsfleet warmed into the game on a bitterly cold afternoon with temperatiures barely getting above freezing at Aggborough. A lovely one-touch move ended with Edser and Dominic Samuel setting up Poleon, whose first-time shot was just wide of the post.
Luke O’Neill had two attempts inside as many minutes, a free-kick that was comfortably saved before he was allowed space to advance and shot inches wide of the upright from 25 yards.
Morgan-Smith was fortunate to escape a second yellow card on 43 minutes when he missed the ball and kicked straight through Greg Cundle in front of the dugouts.
It proved a pivotal moment. Kidderminster went ahead a minute into stoppage time when Hemmings’ run forward was not closed down and he fired low into the far corner.
The controversial second goal followed just three minutes later to deliver a hammer blow for the Fleet on the stroke of half-time.
Referee Ryan Atkin awarded a free-kick and marked out the spot for it to be taken with his white spray. But when it didn’t seem to work, he then didn’t walk 10 yards to mark where the defensive wall should stand.
That allowed quick-thinking Kidderminster to take a clever free-kick with the referee still putting his spray bottle away and no whistle blown for the game to restart. Hemmings was played in behind the wall and slotted home between the legs of Cousins.
Cundle was booked for his protests while skipper Josh Wright was in lengthy conversation with the referee before play finally restarted.
Ebbsfleet lost Mustapha Olagungu to injury early in the second half but it was a bold move by boss Dennis Kutrieb as he introduced Nathan Odokonyero.
Kidderminster piled bodies forward in search of a third - and only a stunning save by Cousins denied Hemmings a certain goal as he flung himself across his line.
Darren McQueen was afforded the final half-hour as the Fleet looked to get themselves back into the contest but the home side took every second possible to delay any restarts and wind the clock down.
McQueen exchanged passes with O’Neill down the right with 18 minutes left but Dibble was able to push away the former’s near-post effort.
O’Neill then found Samuel’s run forward but Dibble was again equal to it, denying the Fleet man with an outstretched leg.
Poleon then found space on the edge of the and took aim but his right-foot drive came back off the upright with Dibble well beaten 13 minutes from time. It summed up Ebbsfleet’s luck on the day.
Kidderminster: Dibble, Pearce, McNally, Morgan-Smith (McDonagh 81mins), Hemmings, Lambert (Brown 81mins), Preston, Lissimore, McLean (Richards 88mins), Robinson, Hobson. Subs not used: Penny, Tollitt.
Ebbsfleet: Cousins, O'Neill, Wright, Olagunju (Odokonyero 52mins), Cisse, Poleon, Cundle, Edser (Tanner 90+2mins), Fanimo (McQueen 62mins), Samuel, Kenlock. Subs not used: Chapman, Amoo.
Referee: Ryan Atkin.
Attendance: 2,071 (105 away).