Fylde put in another brave and impressive display away from the Woodlands only to be beaten in the 78th minute through a try by Ampthill’s Maama Molitika.
Again the Lancastrians had got themselves into a winning position, with a 75th-minute try, only for a victory to be snatched from their grasp by their third-placed opponents.
This was Fylde’s fifth defeat in six games and the 10th time this season they have lost by seven points or fewer, though a losing bonus point was scant reward for such a gutsy performance.
This was Fylde’s first ever trip to the Bedfordshire club’s picturesque and impressive Dillingham Park ground.
They knew from Ampthill’s 27-17 win at the Woodlands in February that they would face a strong pack, including four formidable Tonga internationals.
Ampthill have had a highly successful first season in National One and could yet finish runners-up to champions Richmond. What a shame their fine performances aren’t witnessed by bigger crowds – a meagre 238 turned out to watch an enthralling game.
Fylde started the game in the most positive way and shocked the home side with an early try.
They moved the ball wide and winger Anthony Bingham streaked into the right corner for a fine try, leaving several defenders clutching at thin air. Fly-half Tom Morton converted very well from wide out.
Ampthill hit back almost immediately. In the sixth minute, Fylde were penalised for a ruck offence and full-back Elliot Clements-Hill kicked the goal to reduce the deficit to 7-3.
The home side began to press Fylde back into their own half but tenacious defence kept them at bay.
Skipper Chris Briers was sent to the sinbin for a technical offence in the 29th minute and Ampthill took advantage.
Two minutes later, they moved the ball quickly through their backs and winger Conor Bullivant dived into the left corner to score. Clements-Hill converted very well from near the touchline for a 10-7 advantage at the interval.
Three minutes into the second half the home side extended their lead with a close quarters drive over the line from powerful hooker Aleki Lutui. The conversion was missed but the Ampthill were two scores clear.
Fylde hit back promptly as neat interplay between backs and forwards ended with replacement lock Paul Arnold finishing off a good move with a 20-metre break to the line. Tom Morton added the extras to cut the gap to a single point.
The seesaw tipped again in the 58th minute, when a period of Ampthill pressure ended with scrum-half Gavin Williams sending Clements-Hill over near the posts. He surprisingly missed the straightforward conversion but his side led by 20-14.
As the tension increased and Fylde upped their game, it was nip and tuck in the final quarter.
Fylde had a period of pressure but were unable to break down a sound defence.
The hosts lost flanker Sydney Blackmore to a yellow card for a ‘team’ offence at a breakdown in the 74th minute and Fylde took immediate advantage.
Arch poacher Oli Brennand raced in to score a fine try and Morton nervelessly kicked the conversion, meaning Fylde led by a point at 21-20.
However, the game had a final late twist as Ampthill centre William Goodge broke a couple of tackles and carried the ball deep into the Fylde 22.
Number eight Maama Molitika drove over from close range for the crucial score.
Once again the conversion was missed but the home side tidied up from the restart and there was no time for the visitors to hit back.
Fylde remain 10th in the table. Head coach Paul Arnold said: “I asked for a performance and got one. We played some very good stuff against strong opponents.
“Eighteen-year-old lock Matt Garrod was outstanding on his starting debut and the backs looked dangerous throughout.
“We lost five lineouts in a row in the vicinity of the Ampthill 22 in the last 20 minutes. This cost us dearly but I will take the blame for that with some bad calls and good defence by the home side.
“Overall there were a lot of positives. We’re all looking forward to next week’s final home game against Wharfedale and then finishing the season strongly at Loughborough.”
Fylde: Dorrington; Bingham, Briers, Bedlow, Brennand; Morton, Nicholls; Birchall, Loney, Wild, Garrod, G Rawlings, Goodman, Stewart, Fairbrother; replacements: Griffiths, Maher, Arnold, Wilkinson, S Rawlings.