Nine man Peterhead fell agonisingly short of a thrilling comeback as their League 1 play-off hopes ended in a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Stenhousemuir at Balmoor.
Russell McLean’s second half header gave Jim McInally’s side hope of overturning a 2-0 first leg deficit but red cards to captain David McCracken and midfielder Jack Leitch left the Blue Toon with too much to overcome.
Despite a valiant effort Stenny hung on to claim victory and with it promotion from League 2.
The Peterhead manager made two enforced changes following the 2-0 defeat in the first leg with Jason Brown missing out due to injury and Rory McAllister’s hamstring strain ensuring he dropped to the bench.
Russell McLean moved from centre forward to central defence alongside David McCracken with winger Willie Gibson taking McLean’s role in leading the line alongside Allan Smith.
Peterhead had to gamble and they were almost caught out early as Martin Scott sent Mark McGuigan clear on goal but the striker fired over the crossbar with only goalkeeper Greg Fleming to beat.
Eddie Ferns also had a chance to open the scoring but like his team-mate he too fired over the crossbar.
The visitors also had a penalty claim waved away after stand-in central defender McLean appeared to push Scott to the ground in the box.
Peterhead, in contrast, failed to test Chris Smith in the Stenny goal with efforts from Scott Brown and Jack Leitch the closest the Blue Toon came to getting a goal in a poor first half display.
The Blue Toon were much improved in the second half and following a period of sustained pressure they got the goal they craved when McLean rose highest to power Willie Gibson’s corner into the net.
The home side surged forward but their hopes of levelling the tie were dented when they were reduced to 10 men.
Captain McCracken was the man to go, earning a second yellow for deliberate handball and he was followed in injury time by Jack Leitch who earned his second caution for an off the ball incident.