Lightning have it all to do to qualify for the final of the English Premier League Cup after they were rocked by three Manchester Phoenix goals in the last four minutes of their semi final first leg clash at Coventry Skydome on Wednesday.
Milton Keynes were 5-2 in front and looking comfortable when Michael Farn was penalised for hooking Michal Psurny with four minutes to go.
It took Phoenix just 37secs of their powerplay to cut the deficit to two goals with Tony Hand setting up James Archer to touch in from close range.
The goal seemed to rattle Lightning and less than a minute later at 57mins 22secs Frantisek Bakrlik supplied Robin Kovar to fire home.
Exactly two minutes afterwards Phoenix wiped out Lightning’s advantage as Archer was the provider for Psurny to beat goalie Stephen Wall from close quarter.
It was a disappointing end to the evening - especially as Milton Keynes had looked to be set to go to Manchester on Thursday next week with that three goal start thanks to a great six minute spell early in the third period.
Captain Adam Carr put his side 3-2 in front with just 2mins 4secs of the final session played - finishing off a Leigh Jamieson pass.
Seconds later Manchester’s Ben Wood was sin binned for elbowing Grant McPherson and Stan Lascek capitalised from a Janne Jokila set up on 44mins 16secs for a powerplay goal.
Lascek was on target again after 47mins 14secs while Phoenix had two men in the penalty box - Luke Boothroyd for slashing and Psurny for hooking.
By now Lightning looked in control - only for Manchester to seize back the initiative in the final stages.
The game had started at a high tempo with Lightning getting the perfect start when McPherson redirected a blue line blast from Ross Green past goalie Stephen Fone after only 2mins 15secs. By that stage Manchester had already threatened the home goal with a Frantisek Bakrlik effort which was saved by netminder Stephen Wall.
Lukas Zatopek came close to adding to the Lightning tally when his blue line rocket shot hit the outside of the metalwork in the sixth minute before Bakrlik was able to turn and shoot - only for Wall to snuff out the danger.
Stan Lascek had a golden opportunity in the ninth minute after a mix up in the Phoenix defence, but he fired wide.
Manchester got back on level terms when Wall was left stranded on the ice as Bakrlik fed Kovar to tap in from close range on 11mins 19secs.
There were good chances for Jamieson after a Lascek shot rebounded in the 12th minute but the Brit failed to make the connection. And a similar fate met Carr when he was unable to get the vital touch three minutes later.
A promising move saw Blaz Emersic pass to Tom Carlon before the return to the Slovenian was fumbled while Psurny tested Wall in the latter stages of the period.
Manchester took a penalty within the first 19secs of the middle session but it didn’t provide Lightning with the go ahead goal as Robert Schnabel sent Tony Hand away up the right. His shot was not held by Wall and Psurny was there to sweep up the left overs to put Phoenix ahead, short handed, at 21mins 12secs.
As the second period went on Phoenix started to pressurise Lightning’s goal and for a while it seemed that they would be next to score.
However the home side got themselves back in the tie when Zatopek sent Ross Bowers away to beat Fone for the equaliser after 35mins 11secs.
At that point there was little hint of the third period goals feast that was to come.