Huddersfield Town will face the manager who led them into the Championship on Saturday in need of a victory to help keep fears of losing second-tier status at arm’s length.
After an encouraging run of three wins in five unbeaten league games, David Wagner’s side have lost two in succession since the FA Cup third-round replay defeat at Reading.
Town have conceded 10 times in that three-match sequence, and their preference of playing the ball out from the back again led to problems, and a goal against.
Wagner’s team are five points and seven places above the relegation zone as they prepare to cross the Pennines to take on Simon Grayson’s Preston North End.
The Lancastrians were well beaten on Boxing Day , and the completion of a third double of the campaign after Bolton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic would be very welcome.
That’s after Cardiff became the first side this season to beat Town twice , with this contest neither as exciting or close as the scoreline would suggest.
Town’s performance was unusually flat, and while there was an improvement on the second half, it was Cardiff who claimed the spoils and a first win in Huddersfield since 1989.
There were a few big moments which could have altered the course of the match after the sides exchanged goals late in the first half (first Peter Whittingham, then Nahki Wells scoring).
Neither Wells nor Harry Bunn could take advantage of decent opportunities before Lex Immers, the Dutch forward on loan from Feyenoord, put the visitors ahead for a second time.
Then a strong-looking penalty appeal for handball by centre-back Matthew Connolly was turned down by David Webb.
The Lancashire referee also frustrated the 314 Cardiff fans in an 11,002 tickets-issued crowd when he ruled Jason Davidson’s foul on Stuart O Keefe was outside rather than inside the area.
In the event, it mattered not, because Whittingham, so often an impressive performer against Town, put away the free-kick with aplomb to provide his side with a two-goal cushion.
To their credit, Wagner’s team kept going, and Bunn produced a nice stoppage-time finish to provide hope of a point being rescued.
But it was not to be, and Town suffered a first home defeat in six league and FA Cup games, leaving supporters wondering whether there will be any further transfer window activity.
A lively full-debut display by recent addition Karim Matmour was a positive , but Wagner’s squad still seems thin when there are absences.
As well as knee-injury victim Sean Scannell and suspended pair Mark Hudson and Tommy Smith, Joe Lolley missed out because of illness.
Jonathan Hogg returned from suspension and Dean Whitehead made a third appearance from the bench as he continued his comeback after a knee injury.
But Emyr Huws went off with a knock while Joel Lynch picked up a pretty needless ninth caution of the campaign (he might also have had a second) and one more will bring a two-match ban.
Meanwhile a shoulder injury for George Friend means Middlesbrough could well be in need of James Husband when his Town loan ends after the Preston game.