A second-half comeback was not enough to save 14-man London Irish as their Heineken Cup campaign came unstuck with a 38-17 loss to RC Toulon at Stade Felix-Mayol.
Tries from Olivier Missoup, Mickael Ivaldi and the boot of Felipe Contepomi put Toulon in the driving seat and the game looked to have been over when the Exiles' Sailosi Tagicakibau received a second yellow card on 45 minutes.
But a spirited London Irish kept fighting and sensationally drew themselves level thanks to second-half tries from Malone and then Alex Corbisiero. But Toulon turned on the after burners and scored two tries in the last 10 minutes, through Tom May and Christian Loamanu to dash any Irish hopes of an historic comeback in Pool Three.
The loss saw the Exiles' European dreams put to an end and their losing streak extended to seven games in all competitions.
Felipe Contepomi opened the scoring for the star-studded French outfit after seven minutes and the visitors were dealt another blow when Tagicakibau was sent to the sin-bin after 23 minutes.
Toulon needed no second invitation to make their numerical advantage pay and opened the try scoring just a minute later thanks to Missoup. The flanker found a gap from close range and touched down in the corner where Tagicakibau should have been defending.
Contepomi converted to give his side a 10-0 lead. Delon Armitage had the opportunity to cut the deficit but he failed to convert a long range penalty after 34 minutes. And just before half-time Toulon landed a knock-out blow on the Exiles. They had been attacking deep in Toulon's half when former Wallaby George Smith won a penalty at the breakdown.
The Exiles were marched back 10 meters for back chat and Pierre Mignoni tapped and kicked down field. Paul Hodgson was able to take the ball in to touch but from the following lineout Toulon made several drives at the London Irish line and scored through Mickael Ivaldi. Contepomi converted to give the hosts a 17-0 half-time lead.
Irish were dealt another major blow when Tagicakibau was given a second yellow card and his marching orders for infringing at the breakdown after 45 minutes.
But they almost instantly struck back when Malone slotted a penalty for his side's first points of the day. And visitors continued to defy the odds with a try just moments later. Armitage hit a Malone pass at pace and broke the Toulon defence, Malone was on hand to receive the off-load and dive over. Malone converted the try to make it 17-10.
Amazingly Irish drew themselves level after 64 minutes when Corbisiero powered over from close range and Malone converted. But just moments later Contepomi danced through the London Irish defence beating several players to grab a vital try that he then converted.
They then broke Irish hearts when Tom May raced clear after shaking off Steffan Armitage before Loamanu compounded their woes.