With Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans having suffered straight-set defeats on Friday, the pressure was on Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot to get Britain back in the tie in the doubles rubber.
But while an entertaining match up against Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau on the clay court in Rouen, a failure to convert key points saw the Brits slip to a 7-6 5-7 7-5 7-5 defeat.
That meant France took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie with Britain – who were competing without world number one Andy Murray – suffering their first defeat over two days since 2009.
That stat in itself is a measure of the improvement that has been made by the British team on the Davis Cup circuit in recent years, culminating with the title in 2015.
Saturday marked the first time Britain has failed to make the semi-finals in three years with France instead going on to face Serbia in September's semi-final.
"A quarter-final, a win, a semi-final, a quarter-final - in decades previous you weren't getting that," said Smith after the doubles defeat.
"It's a damn sight better than it used to be but there's still work to be done.
"It's always really disappointing to lose because we've got used to going a little bit deeper into the year.
"But we played against a very good team and we've still maintained our World Group status, which is important for us.
"We've had a great couple of ties this year, we've absolutely loved it, the spirit's still really good. We just lost a tennis match, that's it."
Read the original article on Eurosport: Smith seeks positives despite Davis Cup exit