Port Vale boss Micky Adams was proud of his side despite seeing two late goals end the club's FA Cup exploits at Sheffield United.
Tom Pope had given Vale a 33rd-minute lead with his 21st goal of the season but Shaun Miller equalised in the 90th minute before then firing a winner deep into stoppage time on Saturday.
Adams, in what was his own return to Bramall Lane 18 months after being sacked by the South Yorkshire club, said: "I'm really proud of my players. We've come to Sheffield United, who are in the top four of their division, and we've gone toe-to-toe with them. Unfortunately we couldn't see the job through.
"We think we're a decent side and we've had a chance to showcase ourselves on a big stage. I told them before the game that whatever happened I've been proud of their performances this season.
"Particularly in the first half, we played really well. It changes on a referee's decision. I think everybody could see he'd been overruled by his linesman on a corner decision. It quite clearly came off a Sheffield United head and it should have been a goal kick. In the resulting passage of play, they scored an equaliser.
"We've got bigger fish to fry. I know that a tie against a big club would have helped in terms of finance but another game complicates matters. We've got a big December and a replay might have got in the way."