Britain's number two James Ward battled bravely but was denied the chance to meet Andy Murray in Sunday's Queen's final after a 6-3 7-6 loss to world number 17 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
World number 216 Ward - who had radically defied expectations in reaching the semis - started nervously as the Frenchman broke with ease.
Though Ward found a groove to break in the second set, Tsonga clawed it back.
He then edged the tie-break 9-7 as Ward failed to convert a set point.
The smooth-serving 24-year-old Londoner, determined throughout despite playing four demanding sets of tennis within the previous 24 hours, earned the chance to level with a superb volleyed return.
But Tsonga saved it with nerveless second serve in a match when Ward's position outside the elite was finally exposed, but only just, against a player of real class.
Though Ward misses out on a dream all-British final, it is likely his world ranking will rise to around the 176 mark.
"It's obviously been a fantastic week for me - my best so far," he told BBC Sport.
"I just hope to build on it from here on in. It's great being at home when everyone's on your side - it does help a lot - I came into this tournament just hoping to play well in the first round.
"But the more I won, the more I believed in myself, and this game is all about confidence. I will take that now into Eastbourne next week. Today was a great match and I just missed out, but it's onwards and upwards from here."
Ward can take real heart from forcing Tsonga to fight all the way for his win after his wobbly start allowed the heavy-serving Frenchman, who delivered aces with ease, to move 3-0 up.
After holding, Ward did earn two break points in the next game but Tsonga's powerful serve got him out of trouble on both occasions - and he went on to clinch the opening set.
Tsonga wasted two break points in the first match of the second set, sending a forehand wide before being denied by the net cord.
Growing in confidence, Ward held before moving 15-40 up after two double faults from Tsonga - who conceded the break of serve with a limp return into the net, firing up the Queen's crowd.
But with Ward serving for a 5-2 lead, Tsonga found his way back into the set after putting away a second break point with an overhead to get back on serve before a tense tie-break.
The Briton saved match point at 5-6 in a topsy-turvy affair - before earning one of his own.
Tsonga saved that with a strong second serve down the middle, and wrapped up the win to book a final with Murray.