TEN-MAN Rotherham United signed off for a three-week break from League One action with a heavy home defeat at the hands of Shrewsbury Town.
The Millers still top the table but on a damaging day both of their closest challengers for automatic promotion, Wigan Athetic and MK Dons, made ground on them.
Their woe was worsened by a straight red card in the first half for Angus MacDonald who now faces a three-match ban.
The 17th-placed Shrews scored once before the interval and twice after at AESSEAL New York Stadium today in a clash in which the Millers didn't test visiting goalkeeper Marko Marosi until six minutes from time.
Because of the international break and a Papa John's Trophy Final date at Wembley, they don't have a chance to put things right until April 9.
Rotherham started well and Ollie Rathbone shot off target on eight minutes after running on to a cushioned lay-off courtesy of Michael Smith's thigh.
Next to try his luck was Jordi Osei-Tutu whose drive was deflected for a corner.
The home crowd were responding to manager Paul Warne's appeal for more noise at New York and there was a rowdy atmosphere as fans got behind their team in the early-spring sunshine.
Many were wearing red gloves provided by the club in return for a donation to Rotherham Hospice.
The two teams were familiar foes, having faced each other in a 0-0 draw at New Meadow less than three weeks ago.
The visitors threatened for the first time in the 18th minute and Michael Ihiekwe had to clear Ryan Bowman's shot off the line to keep the contest goalless.
A tame Tom Flanagan header ten minutes later gave home keeper Josh Vickers no problems but the Millers were coming under a spell of pressure and were relieved to see Luke Leahy's header flash wide.
At the other end, Josh Kayode was among many who thought he should have been awarded a penalty after being felled off the ball but referee Anthony Backhouse was unmoved by the mass appeal.
By now, Rotherham's bright beginning had been forgotten. Shrewsbury continued to threaten and took the lead on 36 minutes as Daniel Udoh ran in from the left and beat Vickers with a clinical finish
The Millers' woes worsened two minutes later when Angus MacDonald was shown a straight red card after an aerial challenge left Leahy on the deck.
Replays suggested Backhouse's sending-off verdict was a harsh one.
Warne's men were rocked and Matthew Pennington came close to a Shrews second before the break.
Dan Barlaser and Rathbone had recovered from midweek groin and quad issues respectively to take their place in the side and there was a welcome return to the squad for fellow midfielder Jamie Lindsay after his shoulder trouble.
Skipper Richard Wood was rested, which meant a first league start since a January hamstring pull for centre-half Rarmani Edmond-Green.
In a side showing four changes to the one that had beaten Lincoln City 2-1 on Tuesday, there were starts for MacDonald, Osei-Tutu and Shane Ferguson.
The Millers had plenty of flank firepower on their bench in Chiedozie Ogbene and Mickel Miller.
Warne made changes at half-time but Rotherham's numerical disadvantage was having an effect and they didn't look like mounting a response.
On the hour mark, it needed a superb double-save from Vickers to keep the deficit at a single goal as he thwarted Bowman and then Josh Vela on the follow-up.
The crowd were urging on their side and the ten players were responding with all-out effort but showing no sign of forcing their way back into the match.
In the 78th minute, their hopes were gone. Vickers, having initially done well to save from Bowman, was helpless as Elliott Bennett was on hand to turn the ball in from close range.
Vickers reacted smartly to foil Leahy before Michael Smith had Rotherham's first effort on target, an 84th-minute shot that Marosi got down to smother.
In time added on, Bowman picked his spot to put the seal on the Millers' worst afternoon of the campaign.
Wigan are now only a point behind while MK have closed the gap to four.
Rotherham (5-3-2): Josh Vickers; Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Michael Ihiekwe, Angus MacDonald; Jordi Osei-Tutu (Mickel Miller 69), Ben Wiles, Dan Barlaser (Chiedozie Ogbene H-T), Ollie Rathbone, Shane Ferguson, Michael Smith, Josh Kayode (Richard Wood H-T). Subs not used: Viktor Johansson, Wes Harding, Jamie Lindsay, Hakeem Odoffin.
Shrewsbury (3-5-2): Marko Marosi; Matthew Pennington, Ethan Ebanks-Landell, Tom Flanagan; Elliott Bennett, Josh Vela, Tyrese Fornah, Luke Leahy, George Nurse (Aaron Pierre 88); Ryan Bowman, Daniel Udoh (Tom Bloxham 86). Subs not used: Harry Burgoyne, Shaun Whalley, Matthew Bondswell, Joshua Daniels, Saikou Janneh.
Goals: Udoh 36, Bennett 78, Bowman 90+2 (Shrewsbury).
Referee: Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria).
Attendance: 9,253 (426).