Lewes were left feeling low after high-flying Whitehawk came from two goals behind to win 3-2 at an energetic Dripping Pan on Saturday.
The Rooks’ big-spending local rivals were able to return to the outskirts of Brighton with all three points when second half strikes from Danny Mills, Jefferson Louis and Josh Jones wiped out the earlier advantage given to Lewes by Jack Walder and Ben Godfrey. The visitors would not even be undone by the sending-off of former Rook Sami El-Abd with 15 minutes to go, as they scored their winning goal with eight minutes to go.
Simon Wormull made just one change to the side that drew with East Thurrock the week before, with Karl Beckford replacing Steve Brinkhurst.
Meanwhile, Whitehawk’s starting XI featured a handful of the many ex-Rooks in their squad, with Chris Winterton, Joe Keehan, El-Abd, James Fraser and Jed Wallace all lining up against their former employers.
Both sides started the game well in a lively opening 20 minutes in front of the most atmospheric Pan crowd of the season.
Lewes then enjoyed their best spell of the match, with Walder firing just wide from the edge of the area, and Layton Schaaf aiming a looping header onto the top of the Hawks crossbar, Beckford being involved in the build-up of both moves.
The Rooks took the lead during this good spell when, on 34 minutes, Walder made sure he was first to a Nathan Crabb cross, powering home his header from close range.
Lewes were playing arguably their best football of the season and were unlucky not to score a second just before the break when Schaaf saw an effortfrom close range ruled out for afoul on keeper Winterton. But they did score again, just after the interval, when this time Godfrey timed his arrival for a cross perfectly to bury a header past Winterton. The superb delivery had been made by Rooks player-boss Simon Wormull.
It took the introduction from the bench of ex-Rook Jefferson Louis to change the course of the game. Five minutes after he arrived, the Hawks began their long journey to victory when, on 56 minutes, Mills latched onto a Louis flick-on before finishing well past Kieron Thorp.
And Louis was the scorer when the visitors found an equaliser on 72 minutes, the man who once scored against Arsenal flashing a diving header across Thorp and into the bottom corner of the net.
It seemed liked fortune might favour Lewes minutes later when El-Abd was shown a straight red card for raising his hands towards Walder following a fall-out in the penalty area.
But as has been the case too often already this season, Wormull’s men were not just unable to dominate a team reduced to 10 men, they actually became outplayed themselves – and the Hawks struck the winning goal seven minutes later, Jones finishing well from close range after good build-up play from the briefly one-time Rook, Jed Wallace, loaned in to the Hawks from Portsmouth.
Lewes pushed forward to try and find an equaliser with centre half Breach pushing forward as an emergency striker, but the closest they came to a leveller was when substitute and Rooks debutant, Jamie Strong, saw a long-range effort saved fairly comfortably by Winterton.
The home players were applauded off the pitch by thier own fans for their efforts. Next up for them is Concord Rangers away on Saturday.