A slow start and a 31-minute Emma Jones hat-trick meant Chichester City succumbed to their fourth league defeat of the season, losing 4-2 away to Cardiff.
Jones gave the hosts a three-goal advantage before Cherelle Khassal grabbed a goal back before half-time. Chloe Lloyd made it four with minutes to go with a wonder strike from 40 yards and Jess Lewry got a second for Chi.
There were four changes to the side with Lewes loanee Nina Wilson making her debut in place of the injured Lauren Dolbear and a welcome return for Nadine Bazan, who started on the bench.
Cardiff were on top from the off playing long balls forward to their pacy attackers. It paid off for the home side as six minutes in Jones got her first of the afternoon. Jones was fed a ball over the top of the defence and she beat the offside trap and drove into the box to slot home past Wilson.
Chi created a couple of opportunities. Molly Clark saw her effort deflected to the goalkeeper and Hollie Wride’s free-kick was comfortably saved.
Khassal found herself driving into the box as Sara Tubby flicked on but the Irish attacker shot at the keeper.
With 25 minutes played Cardiff doubled their advantage on a quick counter-attack that ended in Jones finishing with a low shot.
The hosts continued to look threatening and made it 3-0 in the 31st minute as Jones completed her hat-trick. This time a free-kick wasn’t dealt with by the Chi defence and Wilson was wrongfooted as Jones volleyed in from six yards.
The visitors finally settled and looked to utilise the pace of Khassal and Stephens. Three minutes from the break and Khassal got a goal back for Chi as she beat the Cardiff backline to tuck the ball away.
Molly Clark nearly made it 3-2 when Wride headed the ball down for a volley but it narrowly missed.
Lewry was brought on in place of Stephens and Chi started the second half as strongly as they finished the first.
Khassal tried to get her head on the ball but the keeper dealt with it before quickly claiming a dinked effort from Wride.
The pace of Lewry gave Chi an opportunity, the attacker driving into the box from the wing and squaring for Khassal, but she was denied as Cardiff blocked.
On the hour Khassal had to come off injured after she was brought down by a strong challenge from behind and Bazan came on her for first game since November.
Chi enjoyed more of the ball as the clock ticked down and created plenty but the Cardiff keeper along with her defenders remained resolute.
Tiff Taylor and Tammy Waine were kept busy and recovered well several times denying Cardiff.
Their defensive efforts couldn’t stop Lloyd score City’s fourth in the 86th minute when she struck home from 40 yards, the ball soaring into the net beating Wilson at full stretch.
Two minutes later Chi hit back with Lewry scoring after she and Bazan put pressure on the hosts in their own goalmouth.
In six minutes of injury time it was all Chi, but the comeback wasn’t to be as the keeper claimed everything in the air.
Next up Chichester City will host Queens Park Rangers in the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier.
Chichester City: Wilson, Ingram, Waine, TTaylor, Simmonds, M Clark, Wride, L Clark (Capel-Watson), Tubby, Khassal (Bazan), Stephens (Lewry).