Stuart Dallas believed Northern Ireland were on the way home for the 3-1 in Rotterdam with the help of two stoppage-time goals.
Northern Ireland's hopes of reaching Euro 2020 now look like they are watching a dream come true.
For so long on Thursday night everything has gone Northern Ireland's way.
Josh Magennis, but everything then unraveled as Memphis Depay scored either side of a Luuk De Jong goal.
"Emotions are raw, we were so close and had them rattled," Dallas said. "I honestly believed it was going to be our night when we went 1-0 up.
"We are defended so well. Northern Ireland's performance when we did not have much of the ball, but we dug in and out of the front and boys were throwing their bodies on the line at the back. "
The Dutch dominated possession but managed only one effort on target in the first half – a tame header from Georginio Wijnaldum by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Though Holland improved after the break, they still struggled to test the Burnley goalkeeper until the final stages.
"They did not really hurt us," Dallas said. "We spoke at half-time and we knew we'd get a chance.
"Josh has come on and done well 1-0 up.
"But we're proud. We're proud of the performance, the staff, everything. We gave it everything and we can take a lot of positives. "
The second goal is to take it tough. De Jong has just missed his chance. Peacock-Farrell had already committed himself.
"I was speaking to (Shane Ferguson) and he said it was a flick off a head and spun, I really do not know, I'll have to watch it again," Dallas said.
"You talk about bits of luck, on another day it spins another way.
"But that's football and it's just not to be."
Defeat means Northern Ireland drop to third in Group C, level on points with the Dutch and Germany but have played a game more.
They face Holland in Belfast and Germany in Frankfurt in their final qualifiers next month, though securing a play-off place looks like their best hope.
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis called the result a "missed opportunity".
"I thought it was a little bit harsh on us, we put so much into the game," he said. "If we had come away with a win, it would have been a massive, massive result for us.
"We had to work hard in the game but, for all the possession they had, I felt they were scared.
"It's a sore one to take. It feels like something out of the position. "