While Aaron Nell’s Wildcats never took the aggregate lead during the second leg, goals from Toms Rutkis, Edgars Bebris and Jan Kostal helped tie the score over two legs on two occasions.

But Phantoms’ strength in depth shone through in the closing minutes as Czech Ales Padelek beat Renny Marr at his near post with only five minutes remaining.

While heads were understandably low in the locker room after their valiant performance, Nell reflected on the contest with great pride – adding that valuable lessons can be learnt from the two-legged tie.

“It was a great game, I’m proud of the players,” said Nell.

“We were excellent, we outshot them and we’re all obviously devastated.

“But it’s sport, we couldn’t have given more – it was around our best game of the season.

“We didn’t get the bounces in front of net, and they jumped on our mistakes.”

After taking the lead through Rutkis shortly after face-off, Wildcats were pegged back to their one-goal deficit when Petr Stepanek struck before poor marking gifted Corey McEwan a free shot on goal – which stretched Phantoms’ lead to two.

A much-improved Wildcats performance in the middle period led to a pair of late goals – levelling the aggregate score.

But Padelek’s late strike sealed Cats’ fate and ended hopes of defending their Autumn Cup trophy.

Nell added: “Two breakdowns cost us (in the first period), mistakes wise it was the least we’ve made in a game – but Peterborough jumped on our mistakes.

“We fought to the end but it didn’t go our way, it’s all fine margins.

“We were twice as good as we were last week, but that happens in hockey and credit to Peterborough on the aggregate win.

“We were all over Peterborough in the second period, and we started the third well.

“But we had a breakdown and – again – they took advantage of that.

“We’re a good team, but if you knew the result every night it wouldn’t be fun.

“Those two games were the two best games that we’ve been a part of all year.

“It was a fantastic game, the result sucks of course.

“I don’t think we could’ve played a better game, we left it all out there and that’s all I can ask for.

“Players are down right now, but we’ve got to learn from it because we’ve got big things to play for.

“The league is what we want, and we’ve got to concentrate on that now.

“We’ve got two or three months to focus on kicking on now in the league.”

Wildcats return to league action tonight with a trip to Basingstoke.