Oliver Arblaster’s goal made the difference as Exeter City were beaten 1-0 by Port Vale at St James Park.
Exeter, who had plenty of opportunities to score, once again failed to find the net, and were reduced to ten men in the 90th minute, as Will Aimson was sent off for picking up two yellow cards.
Gary Caldwell made two changes to the starting line-up after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Shrewsbury, with midfielders Harry Kite and Tom Carroll making their way into the side in place of Reece Cole and Cheick Diabate, with the latter ruled out completely through illness.
There was an early scare for City as Dion Rankine lost possession on the edge of the box, but the wing-back recovered brilliantly to ensure no shot was taken.
City had a great chance to open the scoring, as Tom Carroll played a superb ball to Ilmari Niskanen, who beat the offside trap before squaring the ball across goal, which missed Jack Aitchison and Connor Ripley made himself big to deny Kite at the far post.
The visitors responded with an opportunity of their own, as they switched the play over to the left-hand side, which led to an unmarked Conor Grant having a shot swing past the post.
Yanic Wildschut looking to build on his strong performance against Shrewsbury, had his first effort on goal after he latched onto a through ball, but a sliding challenge meant it was a tame effort at Ripley.
On the half hour mark, Port Vale took the lead as a Tom Sang corner was flicked on by Tom Garrity into an unmarked Arblaster who couldn’t miss from just yards out.
The rest of the half was plagued with plenty of misplaced passes from both sides as they failed to create anything of note.
City had their first shot of the second half, as Wildschut received the ball on the left and beat his man, but it was another easy effort for Ripley to deal with.
Rankine’s pace was a threat for the hosts throughout the game, and he won the ball down the right-hand side and burst past his man to get a drilled cross in, but a strong hand from the Vale goalkeeper repelled the danger.
The Big Bank volume rose and that pushed Exeter onwards, with Sweeney’s cross finding Niskanen at the back post, but he got his effort all wrong and it was headed away.
Port Vale had their first chance of the second half from a short corner, which was then floated into the back post, where Pierce Sweeney had to rise high to deny Uche Ikpeazu a header from close range.
Wildschut had another attempt on goal, as Sweeney’s cross fell onto the feet of the winger, but it looked as if he did not expect it, leading to a soft shot into the hands of Ripley.
City were desperately unlucky not to score, as a corner caused chaos in the Port Vale box, and after the ball flew around the six-yard area, Aitchison had a shot cleared off the line by a resilient away defence.
Exeter pushed for an equaliser, as on the 77th minute, some nice link-up play led to a fierce James Scott cross being met by Wildschut, but his header floated into the arms of the Vale goalkeeper.
The pressure continued, albeit without much being created, as a corner fell into the path of Trevitt, but he blasted over.
Port Vale should have finished the game off with just minutes to go, as Ikpeazu was put through on goal, but a huge save from Vil Sinsalo kept it at 1-0.
City went up the other end, and Trevitt took aim at goal, but his powerful effort was wide.
The hosts were down to ten, as Aimson was given a second yellow after bringing down his man following a counter-attack.
Exeter will look to earn a much-needed win next Saturday, as they travel to the Lamex Stadium to take on high-flying Stevenage.
ATTENDANCE: 6,121 (264 away fans)
LINE-UP: Sinisalo, Aimson, Sweeney, Jules, Rankine (Taylor, 65), Niskanen, Carroll (Scott, 65), Kite, Trevitt, Wildschut (Harper,83), Aitchison.
SUBS NOT USED: Macdonald (GK), Hartridge, Cole.