Portsmouth were defeated by their League One opponents in the FA Cup but went down fighting having played most of the second half with ten men.
Despite the division gap between the two sides it took less than a minute for Pompey to state their intentions as Jed Wallace struck the post almost straight from kick off.
You could tell it would be an open game with the wingers on both teams having plenty of joy down the flanks and that was telling when a Stevenage cross from the right caused chaos in the Pompey box and despite Trevor carson's brilliant save to deny Filipe Morais a goal, Francois Zoko poked the ball in after the scramble.
Patrick Agyemang had a good chance to equalise against his former club when Andy Barcham's shot was pushed away by goalkeeper Chris Day but he scuffed his effort wide and would have no more joy on his old home turf.
Both teams had more half-chances before Stevenage doubled their lead late in the half after Zoko tricked his way past two defenders and fired past Carson after yet another counter-attack.
Guy Whittingham's response at half-time was to haul off the underperforming Agyemang and Yassin Moutaouakil and replace them with David Connolly and Danny East.
But any hopes of a comeback seemed to be destroyed when Gavin Mahon was given a straight red card for an apparent elbow on Morais. The decision stunned the visiting fans but there was little in the way of protest from Mahon who played no more against his former club.
That shook Pompey for a while who were thankful that Stevenage were so wasteful with the chances they created with their man advantage.
However, Whittingham's men got a goal back with a fantastic breakaway move that saw Barcham bomb up the pitch and shoot the ball at Day who could only parry the ball to the combination of Ryan Bird and Connolly who got the final touch as the ball crossed the line.
From then on, bar a free header from Zoko, it was all Pompey as they piled the pressure on and penned Stevenage in their own half for the majority of the rest of the game.
But despite the amount of corners won, shots blocked and goalmouth scrambles that almost ended with what would have been a deserved equaliser, a goal couldn't be found and Pompey crashed out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle for the fourth consecutive season.
This main moan about this match will undoubtedly be Mahon's silly red card but you would have to question why Whittingham is so keen to play with such a defensive midfield. Therry Racon and Simon Ferry were nowhere to be seen which meant Ertl and Mahon were given the job of patrolling the midfield despite possessing little pace between them.
Once again, as soon as Ertl was withdrawn there was more zip and urgency to Pompey's attack with Ricky Holmes adding to Barcham and Wallace's threat up front.
The full backs were exposed again as Barcham and Wallace offer little cover and whilst Devera didn't perform too badly at left back, Moutaouakil once again kept making mistakes and it was no surprise to see him taken off.
Perhaps attack really is the best form of defence for this team as there doesn't seem to be enough pace in the back four yet the players are capable of pressing high up the pitch and causing problems down the wings. It could be said that Whittingham should be utilising the players he has in a better way or maybe they're just not that good anyway?
But on the basis of yesterday's game, it wasn't a result to be too disappointed with. Pompey went to Stevenage and had them hanging on by a thread come the end of the match despite looking buried after 50 minutes. It bodes well for the JPT match with Newport on Tuesday and the next league game at Wimbledon on Saturday.
Pompey Player Ratings
Trevor Carson: 7 - A couple of excellent saves.
Yassin Moutaouakil: 4 - Error strewn performance.
Sonny Bradley: 6 - Consistent display.
Bondz N'Gala: 6 - Did a job.
Joe Devera: 6 - Did well despite being played out of position.
Jed Wallace: 7 - Full of running.
Johnny Ertl: 6 - Wasn't too bad despite the pace of the game.
Gavin Mahon: 3 - Sluggish and reckless.
Andy Barcham: 8 - A constant threat.
Patrick Agyemang: 5 - Little joy against his former club.
Ryan Bird: 6 - Got involved when he could.
Danny East (Moutaouakil 46): 6 - Solid enough.
Ricky Holmes (Ertl 72): 6 - Offered an attacking threat and worked hard.
David Connolly (Agyemang 46): 7 - An extra touch of class.