Melton Foxes Under 18s matched unbeaten title favourites Coalville Ravens from the first whistle, but an agonising late goal denied them a share of the spoils.
The Foxes started well, and after just four minutes a good move down the right between Rory Gavin and Adam Lomas ended with a good cross which found Shaun Smith, but the striker fired wide when well placed.
The home side hit back and were awarded a contentious free-kick on the edge of the area, but keeper Chris Lovegrove saved easily.
Foxes broke again, with Alex Horobin prompting the team from the midfield, and he sent Marcus Rowland racing clear down the right. The striker whipped in a vicious low cross which flashed across the face of the goal with Smith unable to connect.
Coalville hit back and won a corner which Jake Dawkin and Joe Nickolls combined to clear under pressure before Lovegrove punched another corner clear as the first half ended goalless.
The Foxes started well again with Tom Dryell sending Smith clear on the left and his first-time cross for the unmarked Rowland appeared to be handled, but was missed by the referee.
Horobin, Walker, Dryell and Lomas did superbly to match the hosts’ midfield, but as they looked to push forward, Coalville were gifted a goal after 55 minutes.
A long high ball caused hesitation between Nickolls and Dawkin and when Lovegrove raced out and missed his kick, a home forward rolled the ball into an empty net.
Far from being a setback the goal saw the Foxes push even harder and on the hour they were deservedly level.
Rowland was bundled over in the area, but was awarded a free-kick outside the box. But Dismay turned to delight when Horobin curled the free-kick around the wall and in off the inside of the post.
Foxes then missed a golden opportunity when Lomas’s corner over found Dawkins unmarked, but the tall defender headed wide from close range.
Dryell and Smith combined to play in Rowland who cut in from the left to fire a shot which the keeper tipped round the post, and the resulting corner was scrambled clear.
Melton’s defence looked in control against the league’s most potent forward line, but just when it seemed the Foxes had earned a deserved point, Coalville snatched a fortunate winner with five minutes left.
A long cross from the right caught out the Foxes, but the Coalville winger appeared to control the ball with his hand before firing past Lovegrove from 10 yards.
Foxes: C. Lovegrove, R. Gavin, J. Nickolls, J. Dawkin, G. Wilkinson, A. Lomas, A. Walker, A. Horobin, T. Dryell, M. Rowland, S. Smith, C. Ainge.