Bradford had captain Ricky Ravenhill sent off and lost central defenders Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies to first-half injuries as they were beaten at Burton.
Ravenhill saw red just past the half-hour mark after clashing with Albion’s Lee Bell, who crashed dramatically to the floor.
Top-flight referee Andy D’Urso reached straight for the red card and Oliver limped off soon after with Davies failing to reappear for the second half.
All three are set to miss tomorrow’s Capital One Cup trip to Premier League Wigan Athletic although Nakhi Wells will be back from suspension.
Patched up City, who had gone close through Nathan Doyle in the first half, coped well with the Burton onslaught after the break.
There was a mad scramble after 55 minutes when Jacques Maghoma hit the bar, Rory McArdle blocked Lee Bell’s shot and Jon McLaughlin did well to deny Cleveland Taylor.
Billy Kee somehow managed to head wide when well-placed before City suffered the fatal blow with 10 minutes remaining.
The ball was played long down the Burton left and when Garry Thompson failed to deal with it, Damien McCrory crossed for Calvin Zola, who was unmarked as he headed home. It was cruel on the Bantams, who were looking for a third League Two win in eight days.
They might have levelled in stoppage time but Gary Jones, returning from injury, volleyed wide from striker James Hanson’s flick.
Burton Albion: Oxley; O’Connor, Stanton, Diamond, McCrory; Taylor (Chappell 74), Weir, Bell, Maghoma; Zola, Kee (Paterson 81). Unused substitutes: Richards, Lyness, Dyer, Kiernan, Rooney.
Bradford City: McLaughlin; McArdle, Davies (McHugh 46), Oliver (Darby 36), Meredith; Thompson, Doyle, Ravenhill, Forsyth; Connell (G Jones 36), Hanson. Unused substitutes: R Jones, Duke, Atkinson, Hines.
Referee: Andy D’Urso (Essex).
Man of the match: James Hanson.