Burton Albion's wait for a first Championship point of the season goes on after they were beaten 2-0 by Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
Against an expensively-assembled Boro side that boast one of the strongest starting XIs in the division, Albion saw class shine through, as an emphatic Britt Assombolanga double ensured a second away-day defeat to recently-relegated opposition in three days for Nigel Clough's men.
A late red card for Hope Akpan made any hopes of a last-gasp reprieve even more unlikely - and the summer signing will now miss Albion's next three outings.
Two of the Brewers' three changes at the Riverside were enforced, with the ankle injury sustained inside five minutes at Hull City on Saturday ruling Stephen Warnock out, and Jackson Irvine suspended.
It also meant a switch back to 4-5-1.
Lloyd Dyer - the early replacement for Warnock at the weekend - was in from the start on the left of that midfield five that also included Matt Palmer, earning his first league start for Albion since February.
Luke Murphy and Matty Lund were the two alongside him, with Marvin Sordell stationed on the right flank, Lucas Akins continuing his tiring run up top.
In defence, Damien McCrory came in on the left, with Tom Naylor at right-back and the centre-back pairing of Kyle McFadzean and Jake Buxton continuing in front of Stephen Bywater.
Returning to the more defensive-minded formation showed that Clough's men were prepared for the wealth of possession their hosts would have.
And that proved the case, with Palmer and Murphy both staying deep in front of the centre-halves as screening players, while Lund was the enforcer tasked with pressing Boro up top.
Despite their lack of time in the opposing half, it was Burton who registered the first chance, Palmer finding space to bend a rising shot high and wide of Darren Randolph's goal.
The game quickly slipped into the expected tempo, though, with Boro, while patient in possession, looking to drag Albion's well-organised defence out of shape.
Ex-Derby County loan star Patrick Bamford played his part in that. He acted as a deep-lying false nine, dropping to receive the ball and push it on for the more attacking Rudy Gestede and Britt Assombolanga.
Assombalonga caused Burton plenty of problems in a Nottingham Forest shirt last August, striking twice in the Reds' 4-3 win. Both of the finishes on that day were opportunistic tap-ins from barely a yard out.
The one he would fire in to open the scoring for Boro here was more emphatic.
It owed much, though, to a slip from the visitors.
Buxton got mixed up when deciding whether to control or clear a loose ball, and it instead rolled kindly into the path of Gestede, who poked through for Assombalonga.
The Championship's second-most expensive player still had plenty to do at a tight angle to the left of Bywater's goal, especially with McCrory bearing down on him.
It was no matter for the powerful forward, who unleashed a rasping low drive inside Bywater's near post.
A goal midway through the first half was far from ideal for Albion's pragmatic system, which was used to stifle Garry Monk's side and then hit them when they are exposed.
Set pieces looked the most likely source of a breakthrough in the opening 45 for Burton thereafter, although several Lund deliveries sailed over yellow shirts and into the grateful arms of Randolph.
Neither, though, were Boro able to pepper Bywater's goal, Bamford the closest to doubling their advantage before the break when he beat the offside trap to reach Adam Forshaw's floated cross. He could only head wide.
The Brewers were almost gifted a route back into the game immediately following half-time.
George Friend's back pass for Randolph was woefully underhit, but the keeper was off his line just in time to slam a clearance away as Akins slid in to capitalise.
Palmer was also denied as Burton upped the tempo a notable notch or two, Cyrus Christie sliding across to block his shot inside the six-yard box.
But the reason Monk's side will surely be part of the promotion conversation again this term was summed up in their clinical second goal after that period of Albion pressure.
They had barely shown a threat in the second half when Assombalonga got the ball halfway between the goal and the centre circle.
He ran diagonally one way to get past Naylor's attempted challenge and then turned towards his destination, dragging the Burton defence out of shape.
A challenge did come in, but the ball only ran away to Gestede, who was free to fire goalwards.
That effort was well saved by Bywater - but there was nothing the visiting keeper could do to prevent Assombalonga from slamming the rebound home.
Had Bamford not been offside when sweeping Gestede's pass past Bywater, the game would have been put further out of reach of a frustrated Burton side.
Any real hope of a Brewers comeback was then dealt a telling blow in the 77th minute when Akpan became the second Burton midfielder in two games to be given his marching orders.
The ex-Blackburn Rovers man dived in for a 50-50 challenge with Boro sub Lewis Baker and caught the former Chelsea midfielder, with a straight red card the decision by referee Tim Robinson.
Adam Clayton had earlier been booked after catching Lund with his studs in another 50-50 - and Clough said after the game that he believed that to be the worst challenge of the game.
Down to 10 men for the second time in three days meant another stretched rearguard from Burton, who probed for a response but could find no breakthrough.
Instead, it took a stunning covering run from Dyer to ensure £6.5m substitute Ashley Fletcher did not make it 3-0.
The final whistle ensured Albion will return to the Pirelli Stadium for Friday's clash with Birmingham City without a point to their name.
It is still very early days, and the Brewers have faced two of the division's best squads in the past three days on their travels.
The need for the tally to start ticking over soon, though, just went up another tiny notch.