Lewes were forced to settle for a point against title favourites Hornchurch, as a last-gasp equaliser from Liam Nash saw the visitors leave the Pan with a point after a 2-2 draw, reports Tom Harper (pictures James Boyes).
Tony Russell made two changes to the side that won 2-1 at Potters Bar in their previous game, with Jake Elliott returning from injury to replace Archie Tamplin and Deon Moore taking the place of Ryan Gondoh in the starting line-up.
Lewes saw plenty of the ball early on, playing quickly through the pitch and looking to stretch the Hornchurch defence at every opportunity.
Despite this, the best early chances fell to the visitors, who saw the unmarked Ade Yusuff head a Jack Leahy cross over the bar from close range, before Nathan Harvey did well to just gather a Tom Wraight free-kick at the second attempt.
Lewes started to turn their possession into openings as the half progressed, with Chris Whelpdale shooting wide from the edge of the box at the end of an incisive passing move.
The Rooks took the lead on 22 minutes, another sweeping move ending with Whelpdale playing Moore in down the right, with the winger composing himself before shooting across Dion Curtis-Henry and into the bottom corner.
Lewes doubled their lead ten minutes later through Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala, who sent a superb 25-yard strike past Curtis-Henry and into the roof of the net after a Tommy Wood cross had been cleared straight to him.
Conceding two goals in quick succession galvanised the visitors, who finished the half strongly, with Nash seeing a deflected free-kick drop just wide, before a Leahy strike took a nick off Harvey Hughes and hit the top of the bar just minutes later.
Harvey was then called into action right on the stroke of half-time to make a superb save low down to his right to keep out a powerful close-range header from Ryan Scott.
The Rooks were back on the front foot at the start of the second half, with both Wood and Will Salmon, introduced during the first half in place of the injured Ronnie Vint, narrowly missing the target with headers.
It was therefore slightly against the run of play when Hornchurch pulled a goal back just before the hour, a long ball forward finding Wraight, who played in Nash to squeeze his effort just under Harvey and into the back of the net.
The visitors were enjoying their best spell of the game at this stage, and saw both substitute Sam Higgins and Nash draw smart saves from Harvey as they looked to level the scores.
The introduction of Gondoh with just over 20 minutes remaining immediately saw Lewes pose more of a threat going forward.
He nearly claimed an assist within minutes, playing Wood in behind, but the angle was just too tight for him to force the ball past Curtis-Henry.
Gondoh went close himself soon after, making space just inside the area before shooting over the bar.
Lewes appeared to be seeing out the closing stages fairly comfortably, with Kieran Murtagh enjoying a particularly impressive game in front of the back four.
Unfortunately for the majority of the 842-strong crowd, the visitors continued to push and found an equaliser in the final minute of stoppage time, as a Quentin Monville long-throw from the left wasn’t cleared and Nash sent a powerful half-volley through a crowd of players and into the top corner to send the travelling fans into raptures.
There was only just enough time to restart, leaving the Rooks to reflect on an encouraging display for long periods and a result that may well feel more satisfying once the initial disappointment wears off.
Lewes return to action when they visit Bognor Regis Town on Monday, kick-off at 3pm.
Lewes: Harvey, Elliott, Vint (Salmon 33), Penney, Hughes, Murtagh, Egan (Tamplin 69), Whelpdale, Moore, Lumbombo-Kalala (Gondoh 69), Wood.
Unused Subs: Pritchard, Dalling.
Hornchurch: Curtis-Henry, Monville, Hoban, Scott, Green, Christou (Harvest 64), Muldoon, Wraight, Nash, Yusuff (Higgins 50), Leahy (Brown 74).
Unused Subs: Byron, Scannell.
Booked: Green, Muldoon, Leahy.