For the second season in succession, a solitary goal by Ollie Palmer handed Crawley Town all the points at the People's Pension Stadium.
The Robins were far from their best but for 90 minutes it looked as if they had done just enough to return home with a point before the big striker had his say, leaving the travelling contingent left to once again rue their side's travel sickness.
In fairness Michael Duff's side didn't create much but they had their chances, the best falling to George Lloyd who was inches from pinching a goal shortly after the break.
But on the stroke of time Palmer, his side's outstanding performer, took full advantage of some sloppy defending after a hopeful diagonal ball into the box to skip around Charlie Raglan and smash home the winner from 12 yards.
Up to that point the Robins had defended well enough and had they held out, another point away from home would have been another step in the right direction but it's all about the fine margins and the Robins were made to pay for their late lapse in concentration.
Rohan Ince was due to make a welcome return following his five-match suspension, replacing Chris Clements but the midfielder was injured during the warm-up and withdrew minutes before kick-off.
That meant Clements joined Jake Doyle-Hayes in midfield behind Ryan Broom while in attack, Lloyd was handed his first start of the campaign in place of Luke Varney. The evergreen striker picked up a hamstring injury in the first half of the match against Swindon Town last weekend and will be absent for a fortnight.
Alex Addai took his place on the bench fter recovering from a groin injury to take his place among the substitutes. Josh Debayo missed out through injury.
The home side made all the early running and forced the Robins into plenty of defending during the first half although Scott Flinders was untested.
There were a handful of chances, albeit for Crawley. Bez Lubala had cut inside and tried one from the edge of the box but watched his deflected shot fizz wide of the right post. Tom Dallison headed over from the subsequent corner and Ferguson missed the target with a low free-kick from 20 yards.
Cheltenham defended resolutely and Charlie Raglan found himself in the wars, receiving treatment for a couple of heavy knocks before the break after tangling with Reece Grego-Cox and then Filipe Morais. However they struggled to create any meaningful forward play.
Duff's side were much brighter after the interval and fashioned a great opening eight minutes after the restart, Doyle-Hayes playing in Sean Long down the right who cut one back across the goal into the path of Lloyd. Unfortunately from a Cheltenham perspective, the young striker was a matter of inches from connecting for a certain goal.
At the other end, Palmer called Finders into a low stop with an angled drive.
Broom went close after he had capitalised on some hesitant defending to lift one under the crossbar, but Tom Dallison was calm and cleared the danger with Lloyd lurking. Fourteen minutes from time the midfielder blasted one well over from distance after some promising play down the middle.
There was an audacious late effort by Lubala from inside his own half after Flinders had made a poor clearance four minutes from time, but in the end it drifted well wide. The Robins number one made amends with a smart double save moments later to keep his side in it before the late drama.
CRAWLEY TOWN (4-5-1): Morris; Sesay, Tunnicliffe, Dallison, Doherty; Grego-Cox (Bloomfield 81), Ferguson (Nadesan 71), Lubala, Bulman (c) (Francomb 46), Morais; Palmer. Subs not used: Luyambula (Gk), Galach, Nathaniel-George, Young.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (3-5-2): Flinders; Raglan, Tozer (c), Greaves; Long, Clements, Broom, Doyle-Hayes, Hussey; Reilly, Lloyd (Campbell 75). Subs not used: Lovett (Gk), Bowry, Thomas, Clements, Addai.
REFEREE: B Toner
ATTENDANCE: 2,095 (180 from Cheltenham)