Hullbridge bowed out of the FA Vase but walked away with their heads held high after a 3-1 defeat to a strong side in Southampton on Tuesday night.
Sydenhams Premier Division title-chasing Sholing took advantage of an under strength Sports side who had not played for six weeks to ease to victory at the Silverlake Arena.
It was Hullbridge’s best ever run in the competition and Hullbridge chairman Andy Burgess said it was something for the club to be proud of.
He said: “Financially it’s been good for us and it also generated a great feeling of excitement around the club.
“I could not make the game because of work commitments but a committee member told me our boys gave it their all against a very good side, and that’s all you can ask.
“We changed our management team over the summer and I think this gives us the confidence that we made the right decision as a committee.
“We’ve got some good young players coming through and now it would be nice to build on what we’ve done in the Vase with our best ever league showing this year. “And with how we’ve been playing, that is possible.”
Sholing started the game brightly and Ashley Jarvis had a 10th minute effort ruled out for offside before they took the lead five minutes later. Winger Marvin McLean squared for Lee Wort to pounce at the back post, rifling the ball into the roof of the net as he slid in unmarked.
The Bridge Boys levelled when home keeper Matt Brown misjudged a cross from the left and Rob Hodgson headed home.
But Wort restored the hosts’ lead with a drive into the top right-hand corner on 27 minutes.
The Boatmen went further ahead on the hour as Byron Mason lashed in after the ball came loose from a melee.
Sholing boss Diaper said: “Hullbridge were a hard-working bunch of lads. “They’d be a mid-table team in the Wessex and they came here not really knowing what we’re about and we were too much for them.
“The lads were really good. I was very frustrated to concede the goal and we should have scored more, but the important thing is we got the result and we’re through to the next round.”