Holcombe Brook ladies suffered the ups and downs of tie-break shoot-outs as they lost their Aegon Team Tennis national league title by the narrowest of margins at Bournmouth.

The three-day event started well on Friday with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Hertfordshire club Halton.

Captain Tony Lawson had given teenager Jessica Ren a finals debut for this match. But he returned to last year’s winning line up for a tough semi-final that was a repeat of the 2011 final against a strengthened David Lloyd Raynes Park, from Surrey. Sarah Gregg, playing number four singles and Dannielle Hock (three) lost both their opening singles. And, when Yasmin Clarke (two) also lost a long three- set match, the prospects of retaining the title looked bleak.

When the referee controversially delayed Samantha Murray’s match by scheduling a men’s event in its place, he unwittingly caused one of the tournaments longest ever matches. A furious Lawson complained that “matches are always played continuously and completed using adjacent courts”.

But his protests fell on deaf ears. When Murray’s match against former world top-50 player Emma Laine from Finland finally got under way, the Holcombe player got off to a slow start losing the first four games. However, she then upped her game, losing only two more to win 6-4, 6-2.

The Brook now needed to win both the doubles to set up a tie-break shootout, comprising two singles and one doubles, all first to 10 points. And they did win, Murray and Hock competently 6-4, 6-4 while Clarke and Gregg tested the nerves before coming out on top 6-4, 4-6, 1-0.

Murray, by now in awesome form (10-1), and Hock (10-7), both won the shoot-out singles, finishing the match just after 10.30pm having started at 1.30pm.

There was more of the same tension in Sunday’s battle of the top seeds when the Brook took on a Roehampton team including British number seven Melanie South, former British number one, Kate O’Brien, and over 35s champion Karen Cross.

Gregg and Hock again lost the opening singles, but Clarke beat O’Brien and Murray had her first win in five matches against South to tie the match at 2-2. The doubles were also shared and so another shootout was needed. This time the singles were shared so the title rested on the outcome of an agonising doubles shootout, in which both teams, Clarke and Gregg for Holcombe, and O’Brien and Kate Gowar for Roehampton, had match points before Clarke netted a volley on her own serve, losing 12-14.

The match was described by tournament director Matt Byford as the best in the competition’s 20-year history.

But for the Brook it was a question of what might have been without that late-night finish. Lawson said: “It was asking a lot for the ladies to be back on court less than 12 hours after completing a gruelling semi-final. Roehampton had finished some six hours earlier.

“The referee has apologised to me for how it worked out, but it does leave me wondering.” The Brooks men’s team lost in Friday’s quarter-final to Loughborough.