2003 Forester 2.5XS

I am trying to remove my center radio trim panel so I can replace the incandescent bulbs in my digital (no control cables) HVAC module.

I have the panel loose of the dash, and the hazard light harness plug removed at the top, but the bottom part will not withdraw from the dash more than about 1/2" and appears to be held by the two electrical harness cables attached to the back of he digital HVAc module.

According to all I have read, the panel SHOULD pull out far enough to reach the backside of the module to unsnap the two harness plugs, allowing the module to be removed so new bulbs can be installed inside.

Is there a "secret" or what could be restricting the removal?