City slipped to the first defeat in ten games away to a stubborn Tranmere Rovers side.
The hosts took the lead in the first half through Josh Hawkes' composed finish.
Despite City’s control of possession, Rovers found a second goal late in the game through Elliot Nevitt on an off day for the Grecians, who couldn't find a way through the solid Tranmere defence.
After losing Alex Hartridge to injury last week, Matt Taylor opted for Cheick Diabate to start in the back line. Callum Rowe also returned to the side ahead of Matt Jay, with Pierce Sweeney leading the boys out.
Ahead of kick-off Prenton Park rose for a moment of silence to remember the 97 lives lost in the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989.
Tranmere came quickest out the blocks. Sweeney was on hand to head a dangerous Elliot Nevitt cross away. The resulting corner was headed over the top by Tom Davies.
A couple minutes later Offfrande Zanzala crashed the crossbar. Oz wriggled into the box and his left footed effort left keeper Joe Murphy stranded, but leaving the crossbar still wobbling.
The game became frantic and Tranmere went straight up the other end and Nevitt forced Cam Dawson into a top stop down low at his near post.
City almost took the lead on 12 minutes. A whipped Archie Collins corner was flicked on by Cheick Diabate in the six-yard box. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a black and pink shirt to prod home the loose ball.
Shortly after the half hour mark, Dawson was called into action again. Josh Hawkes’ free kick beat the wall but the City ‘Number 1’ was equal to it.
The Grecians dominated possession but found themselves behind five minutes before the break. City lost the ball in a dangerous area. The Tranmere winger found space for a cross, and Hawkes stole in at the far post to put his side ahead.
City needed a response in the second half and Jevani Brown almost pulled another trademark curler. On this occasion his shot was high.
The Grecians had a reprieve moments later. Diabate lost the ball in the middle and Rovers worked it wide. A teasing ball across the box evaded everyone and a sigh of relief was necessary.
Jev went close again on 55 minutes. A deft loft into the box from Collins was nodded back by Tim Dieng. Brown’s scissor-volley was off target.
The home side almost doubled their lead a minute later. A desperate Collins block ensuring Kane Hemmings’ shot went over.
On 65 minutes, the away side worked the ball down the left. Sparkes’ early cross was headed to the edge of the box and Tim Dieng flashed wide.
Against the run of play Tranmere found a soft second. A ball in was met by the free head of Nevitt who found the corner.
Jack Sparkes tried to find a reply a minute later. His drive from range was deflected for an ultimately wasted corner.
Rovers almost added to the scoring in additional time. Sub Josh McPake pulled wide
The travelling Grecian faithful were still in voice at full time, and will now look back to the Park on Saturday as Exeter host Rochdale.
Tranmere Rovers: Murphy, Dacres-Cogley, Davies, Merries, Hemmings, McManaman (McPake 87’), Hawkes (Foley 80’), Warrington, Nevitt, O’Connor, Clarke ©
Subs: Doohan, Spearing, Jolley, Foley, Maynard, McPake, Hayde
Exeter City: Dawson, Key, Sweeney ©, Stubbs, Diabate (Coley 61’), Sparkes, Collins, Dieng, Rowe (Jay 61’), Brown, Zanzala
Subs: S.Brown, Caprice, Grounds, Jay, Coley, Phillips, Amond
Referee: Darren Drysdale