DERBY County paid for a sluggish start as they slumped to an eighth away defeat of the season at Brighton on Saturday.
The Rams were caught with their trousers down after just one minute and 20 seconds as Ashley Barnes gave the hosts the lead at a rain-soaked AMEX.
Andrea Orlandi, who was a thorn in Derby's side all afternoon, doubled the lead as Nigel Clough's men again self destructed at the back.
Guy Poyet's talented Brighton side should have added more goals but missed chances before Jeff Hendrick slammed home a Jamie Ward free kick with 20 minutes left.
The Rams pressed hard for an equaliser and a point which had seemed inconceivable before half-time.
However, Brighton held on and took a win to stay in touch with the top six, while Derby dropped down to 12th spot, six points off the play-offs.
It was a strange game on the South Coast, with the Rams disappointed to leave empty-handed after their second-half rally.
But Brighton had done more than enough to win the game as Orlandi ran riot and the Derby defence failed to cope with him.
What cost the Rams as they looked to recover, though, was poor passes at decisive moments after good spells in possession.
Their new-look formation, with right-back John Brayford in midfield, was not to blame, just poor decision making at the wrong time.
They also lost Will Hughes to a painful looking lower back injury after he was flattened by the combative Dean Hammond.
At least it allowed Ward 45 minutes of action as he recovers from his torn hamstring.
And the 26-year-old did well, setting up Hendrick's goal and offering his usual flair going forward.
Clough will hope his star man has no reaction and gets a good week's training ahead of the derby clash with Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
At least the Rams will be back at Pride Park, where they are a totally different proposition to the ponderous outfit who failed to get going against Brighton.See tomorrow's Burton Mail for a full report.