POINTS went begging last night as Town's promotion hopes took a massive kick in the teeth.
Delroy Facey - a man born and raised in Huddersfield and who was wearing Town colours on loan less than a year ago - delivered the killer blow for 10-man Tranmere six minutes from time.
His team - without the sent-off Calvin Zola from the 21st minute onwards - had been under enormous pressure after David Graham had wiped out Carl Tremarco's fourth-minute opener.
But Town couldn't break two banks of superb Tranmere resistance and, in their eagerness to clinch back-to-back wins for the first time since October, got floored by a classic sucker punch.
Facey, to his credit, took the goal superbly.
Not only did he find space on the left flank to receive the ball as Town froze to appeal for a foul against substitute Andy Booth, but he took advantage of the space as Nathan Clarke and his colleagues backed off.
Then, as he cut onto his right foot around the 18-yard line, he unleashed a skidding low drive which Phil Senior couldn't even touch diving low to his left.
Town knew the game was up and, if they continue to defend so slackly - the first goal was also horribly simple for Brian Little's fired-up men - it's going to be tough to maintain close order on the top two in League I.
Just as worryingly, clubs are queueing up behind Town in the table after a run of just two wins from 12 League outings - far from promotion form.
Manager Peter Jackson made two changes with Michael Collins replacing Tom Clarke in central midfield and Chris Brandon returning for illness-hit Danny Schofield, but Town started horrendously badly and went behind following a long punt upfield by keeper Dino Seremet.
Town were in a tangle once Danny Adams and Martin McIntosh both went to try and clear, only to lose out to Zola's flick which left Sam Aiston clear on the right.
His low cross by-passed every Town defender appealing for offside against Chris Greenacre and was gratefully knocked in at the back post by Tremarco. It was their first goal in 392 minutes.
Greenacre then fired in a couple of shots and Town looked in a mess until Zola's late, high, two-footed challenge on Collins, which sparked an angry confrontation in front of Town's dug-out and resulted in red for the big Congo striker.
Jackson made the first of two effective substitutions almost immediately - sending on Gary Taylor-Fletcher for Adams and shunting Dan Smith to left-back with great effect.
Smith pushed forward well and provided some telling crosses for second sub Booth, who went on at half time for an out-of-touch Pawel Abbott.
At that stage, woeful Town had not produced an effort on target but, when Collins burst through, Smith crossed and Fletch headed down for Graham to net his second goal in as many matches less than three minutes after the restart, things suddenly looked more promising.
A couple of bright Andy Holdsworth attacks and a Smith free-kick came to nothing, however, before Seremet produced a super one-handed save to keep out Booth's header just 12 minutes from time.
The pressure was building and, with 1,400 travelling fans roaring Town on, it seemed only a matter of time before the breakthrough would come.
It did, but agonisingly at the other end from Facey, leaving Town to ponder the fallout from a huge missed opportunity.
Next page: Man of the Match >>>
Man of the Match: Dan Smith
Looked much more confortable when switched to left-back for illness-hit Danny Adams. Supplied some decent crosses and was involved in most of Town's best passing moves
How They Rated:
Phil Senior Didn't have a serious save to make, beaten by Tranmere's only two efforts on target. One bad mix-up with Clarke Rating: 4/10
Andy Holdsworth Attacked well down the right but overran the ball a couple of times when well placed. Fifth booking and now suspended Rating: 5/10
Danny Adams Feeling under the weather and Town's diabolical start won't have made him feel any better. Taken off 24mins Rating: 4/10
Martin McIntosh Challenged for the same header as Adams before Tranmere's first but recovered to make some solid tackles Rating: 5/10
Nathan Clarke Finished with a knock. Featured brightly going forward in the second half, but he backed off Facey before he scored Rating: 4/10
Chris Brandon Lively at times but struggled for a clear breakthrough around the Tranmere box when Town were well on top Rating: 5/10
Jon Worthington Covered acres of ground and, while his shooting was nothing to write home about, he did some solid defending Rating: 6/10
Michael Collins Made Town's goal with a strong run and pass from the centre. Earned a booking but also the subject of a horror tackle Rating: 6/10
Dan Smith Started on the left wing for illness-hit Danny Schofield but shone after moving to left back. Very sound Rating: 7/10
David Graham Rarely in the game first half but scored a great goal three minutes after the restart to put Town level. Decent display Rating: 6/10
Pawel Abbott Hit the side netting when teammates were better placed first half. Taken off at half time for Booth to pep things up Rating: 4/10
The super one-handed save by Dino Seremet from Andy Booth's goalbound header 12 minutes from time was crucial. Had that gone in from Nathan Clarke's long throw-in, Town would almost certainly have won the match.
Slack marking, though, shortly afterwards, cost them dear when Delroy Facey broke away to score a fine winner
Spotlight on the ref:
Began brandishing cards too early in my opinion, but Howard Webb was spot on with the dismissal of Calvin Zola on 20 minutes for a late, high, challenge on Michael Collins which caused a massive melee in front of the Town dug-out. Should have spotted a foul on Andy Booth before Facey broke for the winner
Tranmere Rovers: Seremet, Francis, Roberts, Jackson, Sharps; Aiston (McAteer 57), Harrison, O'Leary (Jennings 75), Tremarco (Facey 57); Greenacre, Zola. Subs not used: Wilson, Goodison.