An error-prone Lleyton Hewitt has failed to stop the Australian team being sent back to the Davis Cup wilderness with a soul-crushing defeat against Germany in Hamburg.
Hewitt succumbed to world No.127 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-4 6-1 6-4 in the deciding rubber as Australia let slip a 2-1 lead in a World Group playoff for a third straight year.
In glorious conditions at Rothenbaum Stadium, Hewitt and Bernard Tomic were both humbled with the 3-2 defeat condemning the 28-time Cup winners to a sixth straight season in the competition's second tier.
Seasoned campaigner Florian Mayer earlier ruthlessly exploited Tomic's lack of agility in his 6-4 6-2 6-3 victory in one hour and 31 minutes to force a deciding rubber.
The teenager looked lost at times as Mayer deftly moved him around the court.
Tomic's defeat was expected but Hewitt's loss to world No.127 Stebe wasn't.
Australia's greatest Davis Cup servant has a burning desire to return the nation to the top-flight before he exits the sport.
And he was favoured to finish off the job against Stebe, the home nation's 11th-highest ranked singles player having lost to Tomic in four sets on Friday.
However the young German had the benefit of playing Hewitt at this year's Australian Open and being on his favourite surface.
The South Australian jumped a tentative Stebe for an early 3-0 lead but allowed the German back in the set with a series of errors.
That sparked the home crowd to life and, with Hewitt tightening up, Stebe fed off the crowd and collected 11 of the next 12 games.
A subdued Hewitt left the court after the second set and tried to mix up his game on his return.
He looked to have steadied until the seventh game where Stebe cracked his serve for the sixth time and the German held on to claim the valuable win.
Earlier, Mayer continued where he had left off from his pummelling of Hewitt on Friday.
World No.25 Mayer and Tomic had met once on tour before Sunday's showdown with the German cleaning up the Queenslander 6-2 6-2 on hardcourt in Brisbane.
The hardened campaigner delivered another lesson to the teenager, using his drop shot to deadly effect against his heavy-footed opponent.
Mayer had demoralised Tomic by the midpoint of the second set with the Australian's shoulders starting to slump.
Hewitt committed 47 unforced errors to Stebe's 29 in the match that lasted a touch over two hours.