Great Britain's hopes of causing an upset against France in the Davis Cup quarter-finals suffered a major blow with defeat for Kyle Edmund against Lucas Pouille in the opening rubber.
There was virtually nothing to choose between the pair in the first two sets but Pouille won both and went on to triumph 7-5 7-6 (8/6) 6-3 at Rouen's Kindarena.
Pouille is ranked 30 places higher than Edmund at 17 in the world after a breakthrough 2016 in which he reached the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open.
So it was always going to be a tough task but it was a match Britain really needed to win given the lack of clay-court experience of Dan Evans, due to take on Jeremy Chardy in the second rubber.
Edmund is at home on the red stuff having spent a lot of his late teenage years honing his skills on it and stepped up impressively to win two singles matches in last year's quarter-final against Serbia in Belgrade.
But Pouille represented a significantly greater challenge than Janko Tipsarevic and Dusan Lajovic.
And this time there was no Andy Murray leading the cheer squad from the bench, with the world number one across the other side of France hitting on clay in Nice as he works his way back from an elbow injury.
The main hope for Edmund and Britain was that the occasion would get to 22-year-old Pouille, playing in just his third Davis Cup tie, and there were some early nerves from the Frenchman.
Having seen an early break cancelled out immediately by Edmund, Pouille was two points from losing the set at 15-30 and 4-5 but dug himself out of trouble.
He then put the pressure on the Edmund serve and, having saved two break points, the British number two overhit what should have been a routine forehand.
It was cruel on the Yorkshireman, and the disappointment carried over into the second set as, helped by one of several awful bounces, Pouille broke again.
Edmund dug in grittily to keep the deficit to one break and got his reward with a loose game from Pouille to level at 4-4.
He should have made Pouille pay further but, from 5-2 up in the tie-break and serving, Edmund lost four points in a row and then missed a backhand return on the Frenchman's second set point.
When Edmund double-faulted twice and dropped serve again in the sixth game of the third set, faint hopes of a comeback were extinguished.