City went into the game knowing that they needed to just match Dartford's result at Poole Town to finish third, thus granting them a home second leg, but two late goals from the Darts on the seaside denied the Clarets after they drew 1-1 in Berkshire.
Josh Rees put the Clarets deservedly ahead with a sublime curling shot from range, but the hosts equalised against the run of play with an equally impressive free-kick from Louie Soares with ten minutes remaining.
Rod Stringer made two changes to the side that defeated Bath City 3-1 last Saturday: Mark Haines replaced Michael Spillane, whilst Josh Rees replaced Shaun Jeffers.
Neither side could grab a foothold in the opening stages at Bulpit Lane. But the Crusaders were forced into an early substitution as Alan O’Brien went off with a suspected hamstring injury, allowing Tom Meechan to enter the action.
Chris Bush almost put the hosts ahead as his mis-timed clearance almost went past his own goalkeeper, but Ross Fitzsimons was quick on-hand to deal with the sudden danger.
Midway through the half Luke Daley headed into the side netting after Robbie Willmott delivered a fine cross into the box for the full-back.
The two sides entered the half-time interval level, with neither side making any clear-cut chances to score.
Chris Dickson forced a corner off Lewis Ward as his low driven shot could only be fumbled for a set-piece, but the Clarets were unable to capitalise as it was headed out.
But City eventually took advantage of their superiority from set-pieces as Rees fired home after 66 minutes. The midfielder took a touch before unleashing an excellent finish into the top corner to put the visitors ahead.
The visitors continued to search for a second goal to consolidate their winning position, but the result at Poole meant the Clarets had indirect consolidation in their third-placed position.
Hungerford had loud claims for the visitors to be reduced numerically when Josh Hill fouled Tom Meechan in what seemed a goal-scoring opportunity.
But the hosts took advantage of the freekick, ten minutes from time, as Soares stepped up and curled past a dumfounded Fitzsimons.
The Clarets continued to fight through for a late winner, but two late goals at Poole meant that Dartford won 3-2 and snuck above Chelmsford into third on the final day of the season.
1. Lewis Ward
2. Rhys Tyler
3. Louie Soares
4. Mike Jones
5. Matt Day ©
6. Scott Rees
7. James Clark
8. Ian Herring
9. Nathan Jarvis
10. Stephen Brown
11. Alan O’Brien
12. Harry Goodger
14.Warren Bentley (63’, on for Nathan Jarvis)
15. Kallum Thomas
16. Tom Meechan (5’, on for Alan O’Brien)
17. Jon Boardman
1. Ross Fitzsimons
2. Joshua Hill
3. Luke Daley
4. Max Cornhill
5. Mark Haines
6. Chris Bush
7. Robbie Willmott
8. Anthony Church ©
9. Louie Theophanous
10. Chris Dickson
11. Josh Rees
12. Ashley Miller
14. Kane Haysman
15. Shaun Jeffers (68’, on for Louie Theophanous)
16. Elliott Buchanan (88’, on for Chris Dickson)
17. Max Porter (63’, on for Anthony Church)
Hungerford Town: None.
Chelmsford City: Josh Hill (81’).
Hungerford Town: None.
Chelmsford City: None.
Hungerford Town: Louie Soares (81’).
Chelmsford City: Josh Rees (66’).
Half Time Score: Hungerford Town 0-0 Chelmsford City
Full Time Score: Hungerford Town 1-1 Chelmsford City
Match Officials: Chris Pollard, assisted by Paul Quick and Georgy Bryne.
Man of the Match: Josh Rees