Tranmere Rovers suffered a 2-0 home defeat against Sky Bet League One leaders Wycombe Wanderers in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Prenton Park on Sunday.
Two late goals in a disastrous final few minutes of the first half from Adebayo Akinfenwa and Joe Jacobson put Wycombe in command, and ensured Rovers trailed heading into the interval.
Manager Micky Mellon made one change from last Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup first-round tie, with Darren Potter replacing Neil Danns, who is out injured.
Rovers began at lightning pace, going close within a minute as Rushian Hepburn-Murphy powered right-footed into Ryan Allsop’s side-netting after Potter’s through ball played him in.
Connor Jennings then aimed a low cross from the left side of the penalty area, which was hastily cleared by defender Darius Charles.
Tranmere were enjoying the better of the opening exchanges, with centre-back Sid Nelson heading straight at Allsop from Kieron Morris’ whipped free-kick from the right, on 12 minutes.
Up the other end, Gareth Ainsworth’s Chairboys threatened through forward Akinfenwa, but following Jack Grimmer’s floated cross from the right, his header was comfortable for Rovers captain Scott Davies.
Towards the half-hour mark, Davies was drawn into a stop low down to his left, keeping out David Wheeler’s well-hit strike across goal from Akinfenwa’s knockdown.
Wycombe were in front with 43 minutes played after Akinfenwa met Jacobson’s lofted free-kick to guide an unmarked header into the bottom left-corner beyond Davies.
The visitors were awarded a penalty by referee John Busby two minutes later, with Potter handballing Jacobson’s corner from the left.
Up-stepped Jacobson, who planted his left-footed kick from 12-yards straight down the middle, beating Davies to extend their lead.
Searching for a route back into contest, Mellon introduced Corey Blackett-Taylor and Morgan Ferrier, who replaced Liam Ridehalgh and David Perkins after the break.
Rovers were positive, with Jake Caprice’s cross from the right just evading Ferrier, while Blackett-Taylor was causing issues down the left.
Five minutes on from the restart, Davies did well to thwart Matt Bloomfield’s effort at his near post when the midfielder broke free inside the box after getting past Nelson.
On the hour, Rovers were unlucky when Jennings neat clearance up field found its way to Hepburn-Murphy, though Allsop was quick off his line to scuff the ball away from danger.
Rovers’ next opening came on 70 minutes, after Hepburn-Murphy, who carried the ball 50-yards, was fouled by Curtis Thompson.
The resulting set-piece, taken by Blackett-Taylor, who bent the ball over the wall right-footed, which was tipped away by from his top left-corner by stopper Allsop.
Tranmere were having their chances, but Kane Wilson or Jennings couldn’t beat Allsop, while Ferrier’s long-range attempt dipped just wide of the right-hand post.
Looking for a third, Nick Freeman curled inches past Davies’ far post from 20-yards for the Buckinghamshire outfit.
Despite a more positive second half, Rovers were beaten at home and remain 18th in the table. Attentions now turn to Wednesday night’s Emirates FA Cup first-round replay at Adams Park, 7:45pm kick-off.
TRFC: Davies ©, Caprice, Monthe, Nelson, Ridehalgh (Blackett-Taylor 45), Wilson, Potter, Perkins (Ferrier 45), Morris, Hepburn-Murphy (Mullin 72), Jennings
Subs not used: Pilling, Ray, Maddox, Payne
Attendance: 5, 460