Great Britain lost their opening EuroBasket 2021 qualifier 81-74 against Montenegro in Podgorica.
Myles Hesson had 20 points and Ovie Soko added 18 for GB, who could have stolen the game late on but failed to complete their chances.
They trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter but were only three down with 11 seconds remaining.
Three will qualify from GB's four-team group, with 2021 hosts Germany their next opponent in Newcastle on Monday.
Under acting head coach Marc Steutel, GB took three minutes to get on the scoreboard and were 24-14 down at the end of the first quarter.
But a 12-4 start to the second quarter, inspired by Gabe Olaseni's scavenging close to the basket and scoring from Hesson and Soko, brought GB back into the game and they trailed just 42-38 at half-time.
Yet Steutel's team again struggled after half-time and were forced to bench Olaseni when he received a third foul midway through the third quarter with Montenegro on a 15-2 run and again in charge of the game.
Three baskets from Hesson brought GB back into the game and that surge continued in the fourth quarter, when he and Ben Mockford added threes to bring GB back to within six points with four and a half minutes remaining.
Hesson and Soko made it a four-point game with 36 seconds left but Teddy Okereafor's two misses from three-point range allowed the hosts to escape, with American guard Justin Cobbs hitting five out of six free throws to secure a home win.
"I'm proud of the team," said Steutel. "We'll go back and have a look at it and see what we can do to improve. Overall I'm pleased with a lot of elements of our game and I think it's just a few possessions here and there that make the difference at this level of the game."
"We played well in spurts and there's a few things we can learn for the next game," said Hesson.