A surprisingly sluggish start to the first half cost Grays dear as this defeat at Kingsfield Stadium saw them slip back into the Nationwide Conference relegation zone, though manager Justin Edinburgh was left lamenting what he saw as a poor refereeing decision that could have cost his side the opportunity to draw this vital match.
This was the first home game for Woking since the departure of their management team and there was a clear sense of purpose led by skipper and caretaker manager Neil Smith.
In the first half, Grays found it impossible to find any rhythm with far too many stray passes.
The tactic of the high ball for Dennis Oli to head on simply led to nod-ons to Woking shirts and Grays' attacks dissipated, though Aaron O'Connor continued to look dangerous whenever he received the ball.
There was a strange lack of commitment from Grays and even the usually reliable Andy Sambrook produced a horrendous slice across his goal that almost led to an own goal. And Ben Harding and Tom Williamson found it hard to make their presence felt in midfield as Grays struggled to come to the pace of the game.
Disaster struck in the 12th minute when a Woking free kick was flicked on by Craig McAllister and then met by defender Tom Hutchinson who volleyed from close range to put the home team in front.
The goal stirred some emotion in the Grays ranks and in the 18th minute O'Connor shook free of his close marker in the area but was brought down by a Woking defender. Referee Mullarkey waved play on to the amazement of the Grays bench and it may well have been a turning point in the match.
Premiership referee Paul Durkin was in the stand: it would have been interesting to know what he thought.
Woking relished their escape and Grays had to defend stoutly to not go further behind.
The closing stages of the first half saw the beginnings of an improvement in Grays' performance and they certainly stepped up to the plate in the second half, which began with a thundering shot from Stuart Thurgood blazing over the bar.
It was a statement of intent from Grays and they began to dominate the Surrey side.
Dean Howell came on in the 55th minute for the ineffective Williamson and immediately gave the team width.
However, Woking were still capable of threatening the Blues' goal. In the 57th minute, Danny Knowles made a smart save from the ever-threatening McAllister.
The last 20 minutes were extremely frustrating for all Blues fans. Oli began to take the game by the scruff of the neck and made a series of runs that had Woking in pieces but he simply could not deliver the killer ball.
In the 73rd minute a sublime piece of dribbling was followed by a rasping shot that hit the bar.
Alex Rhodes came on for the anonymous Leroy Griffith and linked up well with Howell and O'Connor.
Grays kept up the pressure as the game went in to injury time but to no avail and the vast majority of the 1,834 crowd were ecstatic when the final whistle went and this game obviously meant an awful lot to the Surrey side.
After the game Edinburgh felt there were key moments in the game.
He said: "It was a blatant penalty. I'm not one to criticise referees but this was a very poor decision.
"It was a very slow start and we were punished for that. We played very well in the second half but didn't create the final ball."
Justin reflected on the slide back into trouble, saying: "We have three home games left. I have said all along that it is in our hands. It could well go down to the wire."
By Michael Casey
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the match report