A HORRIBLE late blunder by Nathan Clarke was punished to ensure Town's miserable recent record in this newly-named competition continued last night.
Town's formerly footsure centre-back, who hasn't been himself this season, had already had one let-off when giving the ball away - Lewis Guy missing when it was easier to score from a Jason Price square pass six minutes from time.
But there was no reprieve three minutes later when, with the score 1-1 and a penalty shoot-out looming, Clarke repeated the mistake and Price teed up Guy to make amends.
While there's no use crying over spilt paint and at least it didn't cost League points, the goal ended Town's unbeaten run at five matches and left them with only one win (against Morecambe) in the League Trophy since they bowed out to Blackpool's Golden Goal in the Northern Final almost five years ago.
That's not a happy statistic for one-time finalists and this latest setback came at a time when Peter Jackson's side could have done with maintaining momentum ahead of the League I trip to Port Vale on Saturday.
In truth, Doncaster deserved their win for playing well after taking the lead through Price on 25 minutes and for withstanding most of Town's best efforts in a second half when Andy Booth notched his 127th goal for the club to equalise on 61.
That strike from 25 yards, after good pressure from Pawel Abbott and a bad kick by keeper John Filan, put him third in the all-time list of scorers ahead of Billy Smith and behind only Jimmy Glazzard and George Brown.
What a shame it didn't count for more.
Other plus points for Jackson were the performances of young defenders Aaron Hardy - on his Galpharm debut - and John McCombe, plus the sharpness of substitute keeper Paul Rachubka, who replaced leg-injury victim Matt Glennon on 31 minutes.
Rachubka dominated well and, in a furious late spell of attacking by Doncaster before the deciding goal, he saved well from Theo Streete and Price, blocked the latter with his feet and then made smart stops to deny Paul Heffernan and Sean Thornton all in the space of a few seconds.
At that stage Town appeared to have switched off, assuming it would go straight to penalties (there was no scheduled extra-time), but they were quickly painted into a corner.
Doncaster, who've lost only once since Sean O'Driscoll took charge, seemed quicker and more inventive on the ball, even though skipper Jon Worthington ploughed through plenty of tackles, Abbott and Chris Brandon produced some neat flicks and runs and substitute Michael Collins did well when he went on.
Right-back Hardy, too, linked well and if Andy Holdsworth doesn't make it to Vale Park this weekend then Town have clearly got a ready-made replacement in the absence of injured Tom Clarke.
Hardy took his chance well, showed exactly the right attitude and passed the ball accurately, something Town didn't do enough of in the first half and which, ultimately, brought their downfall at the end.
Next page: How they rated >>>
How They Rated:
Matt Glennon Went off suffering a dead-leg following a collision with scorer Price. Hadn't made a save up to that point Rating: 5/10
Aaron Hardy Making his first senior start at the Galpharm and impressed with his steady approach, good passing and willingness to overlap Rating: 7/10
Danny Adams Saw quite a lot of the ball in the second half and linked reasonably on his return from a one-match suspension. Rating: 5/10
John McCombe Did well at the heart of the defence in only his second start since last year's exit at Boston. Solid performance. Rating: 6/10
Nathan Clarke Failed to heed a clear warning sign and gave the ball away a second time for Doncaster to break and get a winner. Rating: 4/10
Adnan Ahmed Back for the first time since surgery to a broken metatarsal and struggled to make an impact at times Rating: 5/10
Jon Worthington Tried his best to spark the team with strong running in the centre and plenty of tackles but the effort was in vain Rating: 6/10
Chris Brandon One or two very nice touches in his first start since August 12. Worked hard but never really got a sniff of a chance Rating: 5/10
Danny Schofield Had an early shot from a neat move blocked wide. Some promising attacks but faded out of the game late on Rating: 5/10
Andy Booth Scored the 127th Town goal of his career to go ahead of Billy Smith at third in the all-time list. Worked hard all game Rating: 6/10
Pawel Abbott Some clever touches and put himself about superbly second half, forcing the error which led to Booth's goal Rating: 6/10
The first-round tie looked to be heading straight to a penalty shoot-out with only three minutes left when Nathan Clarke had a pass intercepted by Jason Price and his through ball was tucked away for the winner by Lewis Guy.
It was a killer mistake, especially after Town's No6 had got away with a similar error only three minutes earlier.
Spotlight on the Ref:
Nottingham official Russell Booth let play flow as much as he could and did well to restrict the yellow cards to just two as many players on both sides misjudged challenges on the greasy surface.
The bookings for Pawel Abbott (Town) and Doncaster's Anthony Griffith were fair enough and at least he kept up with play well to be on the spot for decisions
Doncaster Rovers: Filan; Lee, Roberts, Lockwood; Thornton, Griffith (Roberts 90), Heffernan, McDaid; Guy, Streete (Green P 90), Price.
Subs not used: Di Piedi, Green (L), Smith.