Old Crossleyans paid the price for missed opportunities as visitors Wheatley Hills scored a late try to win 23-16 in the North East One opener at Broomfield.
New player-coach Ben Greaves could only manage three successful shots at goal out of six and three try chances went begging.
There was also a lack of cohesion - perhaps no surprise with several new faces - and the loss at half-time of talisman No 8 Ryan Hammond through injury was a blow.
Things started promisingly with a try from new second rower Luke Gardiner under the posts after three minutes, converted by Greaves.
Hills replied with penalties on five, 18 and 23 minutes from the impressive Johnny Woodcock to edge in front but Greaves replied from long range on 25 minutes and then made it 13-9 eight minutes before the break.
A couple of Greaves misses were followed by a break from a tap penalty by Will Travis which went unsupported.
Hills went 16-13 up on the hour with a try from winger James Montgomery, after a prop had dummied his way through, Woodcock converting.
A Greaves penalty went just wide but a Gareth Sweeney kick scraped over after 68 minutes to make it 16-16.
Disaster struck for Crocs with nine minutes left when a Travis box kick was blocked and after many Hills charges prop Sam Kerry went over for the visitors. Woodcock converted.
The visitors were down to 13 men in the closing stages, with two in the sin-bin, but it was still Crocs who had to defend.