City were unable to overcome league leaders Plymouth Argyle on home soil as the Pilgrims took all three points back to the other side of Devon, with a deflected Matt Butcher strike the difference.
Ahead of a game where City edged the better chances, Gary made three changes to the side that lost at Peterborough. Returning to the starting line-up after injury were both Jay Stansfield and Demetri Mitchell and also returning to the starting XI for the first time since international duty was Kegs Chauke.
Only two minutes into the game and referee Darren Drysdale had to bring out the first yellow of the game, with the ball punted up into the air, Chauke went in for a challenge and slipped as he did so catching an Argyle player up high, resulting in an early free kick to the visitors.
Excellent early pressure from the side in red and white saw the Grecians have the first big chance of the game. With Stansfield causing nightmares down the right-hand side, he wriggled his way past the Argyle back line and placed the ball into the path of Mitchell, but the wing backs strike was smothered by a combination of keeper and defender.
The first chance from Argyle came by way of free kick, after Chauke was adjudged to have fouled Cosgrove. The away side were playing mind games with Blackman trying to block the keepers view, but it meant nothing as the strike hit the wall and went behind. From the resulting corner Blackman was able to come out and clutch it out the sky with ease and just as he was about to send a kick up field he was fouled by Earley, taking the tally of yellows to two for the game.
After all the pressure was coming from City in the first 20 minutes, Argyle were starting to prove why they were fighting at the top of the table in the following ten. The away side were now starting to get in behind the City back three and as they did Earley tried to place a neat pass into the path of Ennis, but Aimson came through with a vital block.
With the first half entering the final five minutes, City were starting to see much more of the ball again with Aimson's excellent diagonal spray causing lots of problems and it almost resulted in an opener. The Cityn skipper found Nombe on the far-left hand side and as he steadied himself for a strike, Argyle defenders came across and blocked his route to goal and another chance went away.
Straight from kick off in the second period, Argyle immediately went on the attack, attacking towards the Big Bank with Cosgrove and Azaz teaming up on Sweeney, with the latter sending a strike towards goal but Blackman seemed comfortable as he let it go just wide of the post.
With 53 minutes on the clock, City had their first chance of the second period as a testing ball over the top had Burton and Nombe chasing head-to-head to the same ball, Nombe get their first but the ball skidded up right at the wrong moment and the striker sent the ball behind for a goal kick.
Seconds later and it was another big chance for City, Mitchell picked up the ball and played Stansfield in behind Wilson and after a jinxing run, he laid it back to Chauke but his floated effort into the box just missed the heads of Collins and Nombe and Burton came out to gather it up.
City were on top as the game ticked passed the hour mark, as Kite picked up the ball on the edge of the area and the box-to-box midfielder played it through to Nombe, but he was unable to trouble Burton too much and the keeper was able to smother the ball.
A break in play in the 65th minute led to both teams making changes, first up, Argyle made a double change with Cosgrove and Earley making way for Hardie and Gillesphey and the change for City was Chauke being replaced by Joe White, in what was an attacking change for the Grecians.
After all the City pressure, it was the visitors who took the lead, after a shortly taken corner, Butcher sent a cross into the box which took a wicked deflection off a red shirt, wrong footing Blackman and finding the back of the net.
With City needing something different higher up the pitch, Gary made a second change of the game with Kite making way for James Scott, which meant City now had three strikers on the field for the final period. Five minutes later came sub number three. With the Grecians needing an equaliser he sacrificed a defender to put a fourth striker on the pitch with Sonny Cox called upon to replace Hartridge.
It was one of the newly introduced subs who almost got that equaliser for City, Scott picked up the ball 20 yards out and wiggled his way through, but his left footed strike just flew over the bar, rattling the back wall of the away end.
The next game for City is another home tie, this time taking on the Rams, Derby County on Tuesday 18thApril.
City XI: Blackman, Key, Sweeney, Aimson, Hartridge (Cox), Mitchell, Kite (Scott), Collins, Chauke (White), Stansfield, Nombe
Subs not used: Woods, Grounds, Caprice, Sparkes,
Argyle XI: Burton, Houghton, Wilson, Scarr, Butcher, Edwards ©, Ennis (Wright), Cosgrove (Hardie), Azaz (Randell), Galloway, Earley (Gillesphey)
Subs not used: Parkes, Mayor, Matete
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 8046 (1246 away)