Well, you are right about the solidity of the electrical system, however the panel lights were unrelated and went out in mid flight, as did the landing light. I admit though, there was no excuse for me to not have at least another set of batteries for my flashlight. Ill just be happy I got the plane back and use this experience as a lesson learned... Ill make sure I wont be caught in the dark again.
On my night cross country my alternator went out and flicking the master for the alternator would only restore it for a couple of seconds.
We turned every thing off but the nav lights so we could turn on the runway lights when we got back.
It wasnt too scary until I realized just how hard it would have been to find the runway had we not been able to turn the lights on. There was no moon either. So even if we got lined up we would of had a hard time finding the ground.