The Black Sticks Men have been edged 4-3 by Spain in their final pool match at the Hockey World League Semi Final in Johannesburg.
The Kiwis channelled all their efforts into hunting three points for a win to finish second in Pool A, but ultimately paid the price for having the goalkeeper on the sideline in the final minutes.
Spain ran out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Josep Romeu and Enrique Gonzalez in the 23rd and 35th minutes before New Zealand responded in stunning style.
The Black Sticks substituted goalkeeper Devon Manchester for an extra field player late in the third quarter in a move which instantly paid off when Shea McAleese deflected a penalty corner shot into the roof of the net.
New Zealand equalised in the 54th minute thanks to a drag flick from Nic Woods before taking a 3-2 lead just one minute later through Kane Russell's penalty corner shot.
Manchester returned to goal for two minutes before Spain levelled once more and the Kiwis opted to put the kicking back in play again to try and force a win.
But Spain sunk the Black Sticks' hopes in the final 30 seconds of the match when Pau Quemada capitalised on a defensive error and shot into an open goal.
The result sees the Kiwis finish third in Pool A with a cross-over quarter final looming on Wednesday against the second placed finishers in Pool B, which is likely to be either Germany or Belgium.
Head coach Darren Smith said his side put it all on the line for three points but unfortunately couldn't quite get there.
"We were a bit slow early on but I thought we played well in the second half and showed some real intent and determination," he said.
"We took a calculated risk with the goalkeeper off the field but it allowed us to hold the ball well in the defensive midfield and then create some good attacking pressure and score three goals.
"It's a disappointing final result for us but we are certainly up for our next challenge and we know we will have to be on our game no matter who we come up against."
Forward Marcus Child celebrated a milestone with his 100th international cap in the match.
BLACK STICKS 3: (Shea McAleese, Nic Woods, Kane Russell)
SPAIN 4: (Josep Romeu, Enrique Gonzalez, Alvaro Iglesias, Pau Quemada)
Halftime: Spain 1-0