Connah’s Quay Nomads fell to a narrow defeat in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg but made it far from easy for Partizan Belgrade.
Nomads, who knocked out Kilmarnock in the last round, put in another dogged display on a warm evening in Rhyl.
But the Serbian side broke Nomads’ brave resistance just after the hour mark, with Aleksandar Scekic netting the only goal of the game,
The Welsh side face a tough test in the return leg in Belgrade on 1 August.
They will have to overturn a first-leg defeat once again if they are to progress and face either Turkish outfit Malatyaspor or Slovenia’s Olimpija Ljubljana in the third qualifying round.
Manager Andy Morrison had said his players would “embrace” the challenge posed by the Serbian Cup winners and they matched their opponents physically.
Morrison made two changes from the side which had won at Rugby Park, with the suspended Ryan Wignall replaced by Nathan Woolfe and Jamie Insall in for Michael Bakare.
Partizan’s only previous visit to the Belle Vue had seen them secure a convincing 4-0 win over Rhyl in a Champions League qualifier in 2009.
Manager Savo Milosevic, the former Aston Villa striker, named a strong side which was unchanged from the one which had started their domestic league season with a win over Indija on Sunday.
The Serbian side had the first opportunity of note in the opening five minutes, with former Manchester United winger Zoran Tosic firing wide.
Nomads were given a let-off when goalkeeper Lewis Brass’s miss-hit clearance fell at the feet of Umar Sadiq, but the Nigerian – on loan from Roma – put the ball wide.
The hosts rarely ventured out of their own half during the opening 20 minutes as Partizan continued to press, with Starhinja Pavlovic denied by Brass’s legs.
But Nomads remained disciplined, determined and resolute and started to push forward themselves, although full-back Callum Roberts’ low cross in the penalty area was cleared.
Another foray saw a Michael Wilde effort deflected for their first corner of the game, but Woolfe’s corner was gathered by Vladimir Stojkovic.
Partizan’s frustrations boiled over as the first half drew to a close, with Tosic booked for reacting to a challenge by Jamie Insall and keeper Stojkovic clashing with Nomads skipper George Horan.
Djordje Ivanovic’s effort from a tight angle was blocked by Brass from a tight angle in the opening minutes of a second half, which was developing into an end-to-end contest with counter-attacks from Woolfe and Insall.
Young keeper Brass gathered Sasa Zdjelar’s long-range effort comfortably, before Partizan finally broke the deadlock on 62 minutes.
Slobodan Urosevic proved a handful on the wing and he provided the cross from the left which Scekic met with a half-volley, leaving Brass with no chance.
Nomads rallied late on in the game with full-back Roberts firing across the face of goal, but the Welsh side will travel to the away leg trailing for the second successive round.
Connah’s Quay Nomads
- 11WoolfeBooked at 13minsSubstituted forBakareat 58′minutes
- 5HoranBooked at 45mins
- 10InsallBooked at 45minsSubstituted forFarquharsonat 73′minutes
- 88StojkovicBooked at 45mins
- 7TosicBooked at 45mins
- 18IvanovicSubstituted forStevanovicat 73′minutes
- 9SadiqSubstituted forOzegovicat 45′minutes
- Michal Ocenas