Town were a shambles in the second half and Bristol City pulled them apart before clinically finishing them off.
While it was out of character for David Wagner’s side to go under without much of a whimper, it became a horror show and a worst league defeat of the season.
It all went to illustrate that Town have to play at pretty much full intensity the whole time, otherwise they are vulnerable to a walloping.
And events at Ashton Gate – where City clinched a double over Town this season and recorded only their second win in seven – underlined how vital quality signings this summer are going to be for Wagner to create improvement next season.
It didn’t help that, after an even first half hour, City built steady pressure and grabbed the lead just before half time through leading scorer Jonathan Kodjia, the Frenchman’s shot beating Jed Steer at his near post with the help of a deflection off Joel Lynch’s studs.
But once the lively Joe Bryan had extended the lead on 63 minutes, Town were totally outplayed.
The wheels didn’t just come off, they rattled over a cattle grid and then disappeared off a cliff.
Wagner’s side let themselves down badly, being pushed off the ball – as Bryan did to Joe Lolley before rifling in his goal – not marking closely enough and simply not being quick enough in either deed or thought.
The same mistakes ran throughout the team and City exploited the time and space they were allowed to cruise to a crushing win.
It was harrowing to watch for 933 travelling fans in a crowd of 15,791 as, just three minutes after Bryan’s strike, Kodjia hammered home his second of the match to leave Town down and out.
Those same fans had, just moments earlier, witnessed an incredible let-off for Town when Steer saved from Kodjia, Bobby Reid hit the follow-up against colleague Kieran Agard and then hammered his next shot against the bar.
That sequence summed up the mess Town were in and City’s fans rubbed salt into the wounds by cheering every unchallenged pass from their team.
Running from pillar to post at times without hope of winning back possession, it became an embarrassment for a spell and Bournemouth loanee Lee Tomlin – as so often in the past and including that Old Trafford play-off final for Peterborough – was allowed to pull the strings.
He is a skilful and clever player and it was only fitting he should put the final nail in Town’s coffin 13 minutes from time, chipping the ball forward with his right foot to take Dean Whitehead and Jason Davidson out of the equation, before whacking a left-foot half-volley past the attemted block of Mark Hudson and the despairing dive of Steer.
Town could have helped their cause by making more of a succession of corners in the first half, while Lolley had a cracking 25th-minute chance on his favourite left foot but drilled the ball inches wide.
A goal at that stage might have taken some of the steam out of Lee Johnson’s side, and leading scorer Nahki Wells aimed straight at the keeper with his only half chance before going off with a knee injury at half time.
Rajiv Van la Parra was also substituted at the break and his replacement, Karim Matmour, showed far more composure and purpose than any other Town player in the early stages of the second half.
Town’s frustration was colour-coded with yellow cards for Mark Hudson (trip), Joel Lynch (dissent to the referee) and Jason Davidson (foul), and Town just couldn’t get hold of and keep the ball, with City finishing on 54% possession, having 19 shots and five on target.
It was no surprise Town committed more than twice as many fouls – 12 to five – and they looked a downhearted bunch by the final whistle.
The only saving grace is that this wasn’t the last match – it would have been miserable to dwell on this performance all summer.<p/> <p/> <p/> <p/> <p/> <p/> <p/>