So about a year ago, I resurfaced my entire upstairs by myself. In the process of doing so, I water popped the floors, went with an oil based stain, and a water based poly. I did one coat of stain and 4 coats of poly. After all was done, I was very pleased with my floors so no complaints. I am providing this backstory to aid with any possible solutions to my problem.
In working on other parts of the house, I accidentally got some paint / grout marks on the floor which would not come off with normal methods of cleaning. I mistakenly used a steam cleaner to which it took off the white marks but also the poly and the stain! :( I know now of course that was a mistake but now I am left with the problem of how to fix the spot without redoing the entire floor again.
What I have tried so far
So far I have done my research on this Stack Exchange as well as forums and such so I taped around the area affected, sanded down to the boards with a fine sand paper, re-waterpopped them (letting it dry overnight like you are supposed to), and then applied stain. I have the same exact stain that I used from when I resurfaced the floors originally so matching up shouldn't be an issue; however, I am having a really hard time matching the patch area to the rest of the room. I can not get it to be dark enough. I have tried multiple coats at 15-20 minutes (highest time on the can says 15) before wiping away but it seems to be making very little if any improvement each cycle.
First time staining after the water popping:
Second time staining on top of previous:
(I tried my best to take the pictures at the same time of day each day so lighting in the room was roughly the same)
So my question is, what else can I do to make the floors darker / match my original better? Is there a better technique than I am using to do patch jobs like this? I have purposely not done a poly coat because I tried all of this once and then applied poly and the poly made very little difference in shade. I want to of course avoid sanding many times so I don't start to create divots in this spot.