Martin Murray's world title dreams were shattered again after he lost to Arthur Abraham in a split decision in Germany.
The St Helens star gave it everything, taking the established champion the distance yet missing out on the WBO world super-middleweight title.
Scores of 115-112, 112-115 and 116-111 were a little harsh on Murray's performance although with Abraham making the most of a supposed low blow early on and the referee eventually docking the challenger a point in the 11th, it was the outcome British fans feared.
Abraham now joins Gennady Golovkin, Sergio Martinez and Felix Sturm as champions who retained their crowns despite being pushed all the way by Murray.
The opening two rounds were cautious, neither fighter willing to be the first to come forward with any great purpose, but Murray at least looked calm and composed and was rarely caught.
It all changed in the third round when the champion connected with Murray through a hard left hook. The fight was slowly opening up, but so was the visitor's defence.
Murray feared he might be up against it with regard to the officials and the referee. In the fourth, those fears were realised as Abraham made the most of a body shot, bringing the referee into the equation for the first - but not last - time.
Abraham did do more work than we have seen in recent fights and put together some smart combinations that not only kept Murray in his place, but looked at times to do damage.
Midway through the fight, trainer Oliver Harrison made it clear to his man he had to step up a gear but the sixth and seventh rounds saw Abraham's body shots homing in again. A further barrage in the corner that seemed to trouble Murray.
But it seemed to spark the challenger into life and in the eighth his response was arguably the best shot of the night. An overhand right landed flush, sent Abraham stumbling back and the estimated 1,000 travelling supporters suddenly thought their moment had arrived.
Murray tried to finish it off but Abraham held on and made it safely to the bell. In the ninth he came again. Murray's counters were good but the champion seemed to have regained all his wits quickly enough.
He was more than happy to shove Murray back and whenever there was a clinch, the referee was in like a flash, usually pointing at the challenger. Indeed, in the 11th, Murray's fate seemed to be sealed when he had a point deducted for holding.
It left him with nothing to do but give all he could for the last three minutes and the smile on Murray and Harrison's faces suggested they thought he had done enough to make it fourth time lucky.
Abraham though seemed to know, and even when it went to a split, there seemed to be a familiar feel about another brave but ultimately agonising world-title challenge from Murray.
"I trained hard, have shed blood and sweat. I was technically and tactically the better boxer," said Abraham. "But I didn't box against a punchbag. He is a world-class fighter, who put in a good fight and you have to acknowledge that."