Doncaster and Carlisle are two places famous for their railway heritage - and the Cumbrians did their best to de-rail Rovers’ promotion journey with a shock win.
On such an important night, Rovers started both the first and second periods like the proverbial steam train.
But they lacked the coolness and composure - or any sort of luck - as a spirited Carlisle side who have made a habit of upsetting teams at the top made off with the points.
Midfielder Liam Noble’s double, a deflected free kick and a stunning late effort, left Rovers facing an anxious final run-in.
Brian Flynn had warned that Carlisle - who arrived at the Keepmoat in relaxed mode - would be a different proposition to Tranmere and Swindon.
And that turned out to be the case as Doncaster found it difficult to boss a team with a spring in their step having all but guaranteed their survival at the weekend.
Flynn also asked for more of the same from his ecomonic, in-form and unchanged team in Doncaster’s third home game in quick succession.
And he got exactly that for the majority of a first half which offered plenty of effort but very little in the way of quality.
Both sides gave the ball away for fun and, until Noble’s free kick deflected past Gary Woods, neither side had really looked like scoring - although Doncaster had the better of the chances.
The game’s first meaningful attempt came on the quarter hour mark when Kyle Bennett met Tommy Spurr’s left wing cross but his first time toe poke went just wide.
Andy Griffin’s sweetly struck shot from distance then forced a good saved by Mark Gillespie following Bennett’s neat lay off.
It took until the half hour point for United to test Woods. Noble’s attempted curler from the edge of the area lacked conviction - rather like the game itself. But it proved to be a sighter for the former Sunderland trainee.
When Rob Jones conceded a free kick on the edge of his own penalty area, and took a painful knock in the nether regions for his trouble, Noble’s free kick ended up in the net, courtesy of a huge deflection off the top of the wall.
The goal rocked Rovers. What had the potential to be an anxious, uneasy night was turning out just the way Doncaster had dreaded.
Furman fired another chance over the bar and the combative South African then came close to latching onto Chris Brown’s precise knock down, only to lose control in the area as the onrushing Gillespie smothered another Rovers attempt. Unsurprisingly, the hosts came bursting out of the blocks at the start of the second period.
But rather than the 100mph stuff, Doncaster needed a bit of composure, or a quality final ball, against a dogged Carlisle side playing with a certain amount of freedom. Sadly it did not materialise.
Bennett almost latched onto a dangerous left wing cross at the near post and then almost threaded Brown through, as the hosts dictacted the tempo.
Rovers came within inches of an equaliser when Brown’s close range header came back off the bar after McCombe flicked on Coppinger’s hooked cross, before Lundstram drilled an effort straight at Gillespie.
And it looked like being one of those frustrating nights when Brown again hit the woodwork soon after, this time turning and volleying in one clever movement, only for his superb effort to hit the bar.
But while Doncaster lacked a finish, Carlisle continued to look dangerous on the break.
Woods denied Berrett with a point blank save as the visitors relished the extra space afforded them. And the Cumbrians had the last laugh from another quick break, as the impressive Noble strode from halfway and planted a stunning 25-yard effort past Woods.
Jones nodded a late chance wide. But that encapsulated both the story of the night and the situation that Doncaster now find themselves in - so near, yet so far.
* ROVERS (4-4-1-1): Woods; Griffin (Husband 88), McCombe, Jones, Spurr; Bennett (Paynter 64), Furman, Lundstram, Cotterill; Coppinger (Hume 77); Brown. Subs not used: Sullivan, Harper, Wakefield, Howieson.
* CARLISLE (4-3-3): Gillespie; Potts, Livesey, O’Hanlon, Mustoe; Berrett. Thirlwell (Cadamarteri 64), Noble; McGovern, Welsh, Miller. Subs: Collin, Murphy, Loy, Manset, Edwards, Beck.
* Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).
* Attendance: 7,884.
* Goals: Noble 35, 86.