Durham Women exited the FA Cup with their heads held high after a battling performance against Chelsea.
A record-breaking crowd of 1,629 descended on New Ferens Park for a cup clash which saw the Wildcats put on a strong showing against one of the greatest sides in the women’s game.
Despite hitting the bar and coming close on several occasions, Durham were sentenced to defeat thanks to a well-taken Ji So-Yun effort on the half hour.
But the Wildcats could feel aggrieved not to take anything from a performance in which they created plenty of chances.
The visiting Blues named a strong line-up for their trip to North East but were on the back foot early on, with the first major chance of the game falling to the hosts.
A Lisa Robertson free-kick had Carly Telford beaten, but her swerving effort came back off the crossbar before Sarah Robson headed the follow-up narrowly over.
Zoe Ness then fired wide from 30 yards before Hannah Reid did well to claim at Bethany England’s feet after a Fran Kirby cut-back at the other end.
And having dealt with some early Durham pressure, Chelsea took the lead when Ji controlled a floated Erin Cuthbert cross before slotting past Reid from close range.
That saw Emma Hayes’ side ahead at the break, and they looked to add a second after the restart – Ji firing a warning shot at Reid from distance before she then sliced wide after a moment of brilliance from Fran Kirby to tee her up.
The introduction of Nicki Gears brought the hosts back into the game though, with the forward causing the Chelsea backline no end of problems.
It was her cross that looked set to see the Wildcats level, but her teasing delivery was narrowly ahead of the onrushing Ness and Ellie Christon.
And there were chances at both ends in the dying stages – as substitute Ramonna Bachmann struck the post with a well-taken volley for Chelsea before a looping Ness cross beat Carly Telford but bounced back off the line before Gears could convert.
That proved to be the last action of a pulsating content in which Durham proved once again that they can compete with the best the top tier has to offer.
Durham XI: Reid; Hill, Wilson, Christon (Dixon), Salicki, Holmes (Gears); Robson, Hepple, Robertson; Ness, Roberts (Cottam)
Subs not used: Borthwick, Knott