Huddersfield Town’s deceleration into the play-offs concluded with an emphatic home defeat by Cardiff City.
The Terriers, whose commendable fifth-place finish in the second tier is their highest for 45 years, head into the Championship play-offs having won just three of their final 10 games.
They go into a two-legged all-Yorkshire semi-final with Sheffield Wednesday starting next Sunday on the back of a man-handling by a physical and streetwise Cardiff.
David Wagner’s side also go into it without their first-choice goalkeeper after Danny Ward was sent off on 21 minutes for handling outside of his penalty area.
He was one of a raft of players recalled by Wagner who had been rebuked by the Football League in midweek for making 10 changes to the team that lost 2-0 at Birmingham last weekend.
Joel Coleman was his replacement that day, and he came on midway through the first half at the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday, by which time Town were already a goal down after Kenneth Zohore had broken clear and slotted beyond Ward.
Eight minutes after being introduced Coleman was picking the ball out of the net after Joe Bennett’s thumping shot from Zohore’s cross and the same combination accounted for Cardiff’s third with Zohore cutting the ball back for Bennett to seal the win.
The closest Town came was through Colin Quaner in the first half, his show from Isaiah Brown’s raking ball tipped wide by Brian Murphy, before Rajiv van la Parra hit the roof of the net with a delicate chip.