DEPLETED Wildcats staged an unbelievable fightback to snatch a point at Manchester last night, but their overtime jinx continued to haunt them.
Ryan Aldridge's men were 4-0 down at Altrincham Ice Dome shortly into the second period, but a hat-trick from Michal Kapicka and a goal from Chris Jones saw them send the EPL clash to overtime.
Luke Boothroyd condemned the visitors to a ninth overtime defeat of the season as the Phoenix triumphed 5-4, but bearing in mind that Swindon were missing forwards Matias Perkkio, Nicky Watt, Lee Richardson and Jamie Hayes, it was a superb effort.
Echoing this sentiment, D-man Paul Swindlehurst hailed the renewed mental strength of his side after the final buzzer sounded.
"In the first 10 or 15 minutes we were 3-0 down and we just collapsed, but we brought it back because we were determined and our mental attitude changed," he said.
"I think we were a bit stronger tonight than in the last couple of weeks and I think we've earned a bit more respect in the last couple of games.
"All in all, we've done really well, although we lost in overtime again and we need to work on that."
Head coach Ryan Aldridge, who laced up his boots to cover for the player shortage, was visibly drained after the game but was delighted with the effort.
He said: "It wasn't a good start but I think it did us the world of good going down a couple of goals.
"The boys really showed character for the first time in a long time.
"We always seem to play well against the big teams when we're in a hole, and the guys really showed up tonight."
Manchester made their intentions clear in the first period, charging into a 3-0 lead with barely 11 minutes played.
The first of these goals arrived when Joachim Flaten retrieved Michal Psurny's wayward shot and teed up Ondrej Pozivil, who beat Dean Skinns over the shoulder.
Psurny made no mistake at 3.50 when he left Skinns on his backside before flicking home, and then Ciaran Long made the most of Andy McKinney and Richard Bentham's build-up play by smashing high into the net (11.10).
When Tom Duggan blasted a slapshot into the net from an acute angle at 23.36, it seemed a question of how many.
Incredibly, Swindon roared back into the match in an eight-minute spell that left the home side rocking.
First Joe Baird fired into the danger zone and Kapicka was left unmarked by the post, the Czech tapping in from close range (31.58) Jones gave Wildcats renewed belief on the powerplay at 37.20 with his second goal for the club, the puck edging across the line after gloveman Steve Fone did not get enough on it.
The advantage was closed to a single goal when Kapicka rattled in an unassisted third (38.29), putting Swindon right back in a game that had looked lost 20 minutes previously.
Scott McKenzie pinged off the pipes as the hosts began period three in positive fashion, and moments later James Archer directed the puck just the wrong side of the post.
However, Cats levelled at 52.07 when Jonas Hoog broke clear down the left and centred for Kapicka to send in his hat-trick goal.
Swindon could not make the most of a late powerplay that spilled into overtime, and after the penalty was killed, Boothroyd sent home the winner at 62.37.