HUDDERSFIELD Town's mammoth unbeaten record finally ended as Charlton strengthened their grip on the League I leadership.
This Sky-televised clash of the promotion rivals had been billed as a showdown between the division’s top marksman Jordan Rhodes (15 goals) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (14).
But it was French striker Yann Kermorgant and on-loan QPR midfielder Hogan Ephraim who sunk Town with first-half goals.
Now Lee Clark’s side, beaten for the first time in 44 regular league games, are out of the top two for the first time in six weeks.
On a crisp, clear night ideal for football under floodlights, Town made just one change to the side which beat Notts County 2-1 last time out, with on-loan Preston striker Jon Parkin coming in for his debut in place of Alan Lee, who was beginning a three-match suspension.
The scale of Charlton boss Chris Powell’s rebuilding was shown by the fact that nine of his starting XI, which included debutant Norwich loanee Darel Russell, had arrived at the club since the end of last season.
The in-form Addicks were going for a sixth straight league win.
Parkin soon provided a frontline outlet as, after a minute’s applause in memory of Gary Speed, Town matched their hosts stride for stride in the opening stages.
Charlton were tested in the 10th minute by two corners in quick succession, both won by Scott Arfield and delivered by Gary Roberts.
Charlton’s first real attack came in the 17th minute when Kermorgant played in fellow striker Wright-Phillips who broke down the right and cut inside to test Ian Bennett.
Within minutes, Arfield brought a similar stooping save from Ben Hamer when he picked up another Roberts corner and shot from 20 yards out.
Given Town’s lively start, it was disappointing in the extreme when they went behind to a set-piece goal in the 23rd minute.
Jack Hunt fouled Ephraim 30 yards out and from Danny Green’s free-kick, Kermorgant beat Antony Kay to flick a back-header past the helpless Bennett.
Manager Lee Clark’s frustration was compounded soon after when Roberts’ flighted free-kick from a similar distance went harmlessly wide.
Town kept plugging away, and Tommy Miller fired wide after Parkin headed down Calum Woods’ throw-in before Roberts’ awkward cross-cum-shot was smothered by Hamer at the base of his right-hand post.
But the home side’s controversial second goal in the 41st minute meant they were facing a big task to salvage something from the game.
Town claimed Damien Johnson had been fouled by Green before the ball went for a throw, but referee Roger East was unimpressed.
Then as Kermorgant picked up possession, he flicked the ball into the path of Wright-Phillips.
He wriggled past Peter Clarke’s attempted challenge and while Bennett did well to block his shot, the ball fell kindly for Ephraim, who drilled it in to the delight of the home fans.
Clark made two changes for the second half, bringing on Danny Ward for Roberts and Anton Robinson for Miller, but that didn’t stop Charlton coming close to a third when Kermorgant headed against the bar from Green’s long throw.
Then Bennett had to be alert to beat away Kermorgant’s free-kick, awarded after he tumbled under the combined challenge of Hunt and Kay.
Town had the away contingent on their feet on the hour when Ward’s curling cross scraped the top of the bar, and the winger’s 62nd-minute free-kick had the Charlton defence scrambling once again.
But as play swung to the opposite end, Green came close with an angled long-ranger which Bennett stretched to save.
Clark’s side, urged on by their vocal fans, kept pushing for a way back into the game.
Parkin came close with a shot on the turn which Hamer could only parry against the right-hand post before he saved Robinson’s effort from the edge of the penalty area.