Jaguar's Mitch Evans thought he "had checkmate" against Sam Bird as the first Rome Formula E race entered its closing stages, before energy overuse cost him in a "chess match".
Evans qualified third in Rome last weekend - his best FE grid spot - and was homing back in on Bird and long-time race leader Felix Rosenqvist after running a longer first stint.
When Rosenqvist retired with a suspension problem, a full course yellow was needed to recover his stricken car, which meant the extra energy Evans had been using to catch the leaders was wasted.
He mounted an unsuccessful attack on Bird, was overtaken by Lucas di Grassi with four laps to go and plummeted from third to ninth on the final lap - including a robust defence against Andre Lotterer - as he slowed dramatically to maintain enough energy to finish the race.
"I should learn a little bit from today about the racing," Evans told Autosport.
"But I think, performance-wise, my approach to the race weekend [and in] qualifying doesn't really need a change.
"We've been fast all season, especially in qualifying - it's the first day I've been able to fight for the win so that's a new experience for me in Formula E.
"It's a chess match the whole race, it really is, and I thought we had checkmate to be honest but unfortunately it wasn't the case.
"I'm gutted. We were in a position to potentially win the race - a definite podium.
"The first FCY I was a bit gutted because when you're on my strategy, the last thing you want is safety cars and full course yellows because they [other drivers] gain so much energy from this and all the targets end up going up and the lifting points become shorter.
"The second one completely destroyed me, because I had used a lot to catch up to him [Bird] and the second one completely saved him.
"I had one opportunity to pass and had Lucas right behind me - I used way too much energy on that lap and it was a downward spiral from there."
Evans described his fight with Lotterer as "quite close" as he tried to maintain third place while battling his energy problems.
"It was at a point where I was really on the back foot," he said.
"We were racing hard and I was massively in the red, I was in a lot of pain at that point. So, I was trying to do anything.
"I knew he was going to get me but I just had to put up a fight to the end and unfortunately crossing the start/finish line for the last lap I was so down on energy.
"I was not amused at all - I had to creep around.
"I got some points but ultimately it wasn't the result we wanted."