A second half capitulation proved costly for Swansea City as they were put to the sword by Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Steve Cooper’s side dropped to fourth in the table on Friday night after Watford secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Derby County.
However, the pathway for them to move back into second spot in the Championship was cleared before they took to the field against the Terriers as Brentford slumped to a third successive league defeat at Coventry City in the division’s lunchtime kick-off.
But the visitors dropped well below the required standards in west Yorkshire and fell behind to Fraizer Campbell’s first half strike.
Conor Hourihane’s sublime free-kick got Swansea back into it on the stroke of half time as Swansea went in search of a fourth consecutive league victory.
However, the home side netted three goals in seven minutes shortly after the restart, with Lewis O’Brien’s deflected effort beating Freddie Woodman before Duane Holmes struck twice in quick succession.
The Swans’ misery was compounded as substitute Jordan Morris was carried off the pitch on a stretcher after suffering what looked to be a serious injury in innocuous circumstances midway through the second half.
The Swans had to play a large chunk of the game with just 10 men after that injury blow given that they had used all five of their substitutions.
And their nine-game unbeaten league run was emphatically ended as Huddersfield completed a league double over the Swans while becoming the first side to net more than twice against Cooper’s men in the Championship this term.
Cooper resisted the urge to make any changes to the side that started the 1-0 triumph over Nottingham Forest last time out while the bench remained the same as it was on Wednesday night.
The head coach called for a significant improvement from his players after their below par performance against Chris Hughton’s men, and they were looking to inflict further misery on a Huddersfield side who entered the game as the only team in the Championship yet to win in 2021.
The visitors looked to start on the front foot and saw a fair amount of the ball in Huddersfield’s half in the first few minutes, although they quickly started to replicate their sluggish performance against Forest.
Carlos Corberan’s side had the ball in the net on 12 minutes as Campbell slotted beyond Woodman, although the goal was ruled out.
Corberan and his coaching staff were visibly irritated by the call from referee John Brooks, although O’Brien came back on to the pitch after leaving the field of play in the buildup to the effort.
They were calling for a penalty minutes later as O’Brien went down in the box from a corner before Jonathan Hogg’s drilled volley flew over.
But the hosts took the lead midway through the opening half as Pipa’s cutback found Campbell whose scuffed shot trickled in off the post.
Swansea could have few complaints after a sloppy spell, and they almost went two goals behind, although Juninho Bacuna’s sweet strike from just outside the box hit the inside of Woodman’s post.
Andre Ayew showed a fine flash of individual skill to create some space in the Huddersfield box before shooting at Ryan Schofield as Swansea looked to respond before Woodman made a routine save to gather Bacuna’s free-kick from around 25 yards out.
Swansea pushed towards the end of the opening half and saw Ayew drill over from the edge of the box.
And they twice went close to making it 1-1 soon after as Matt Grimes’ driven strike from a well worked corner flew just wide before Jake Bidwell’s header from fellow wing-back Connor Roberts’ cross was cleared off the line.
But Swansea levelled on the stroke of half time as O’Brien was booked for bringing down Jay Fulton on the corner of his own 18-yard box, and Hourihane stepped up to lash beyond Schofield at the goalkeeper’s near post.
As was the case against Forest, it felt undeserved, although Hourihane’s quality told once again as the Irishman netted his fourth goal in five league matches since joining the Swans on loan from Aston Villa to give his side a platform to build on in the second half.
Cooper clearly felt his side needed to improve though, and he sent on Ben Cabango and Morris for the second half, with Ryan Bennett and Jamal Lowe making way.
Although they were dealt a huge blow four minutes after the restart as O’Brien’s strike deflected in off Cabango as the hosts regained the lead shortly after Swansea’s double substitution.
And it went from bad to worse minutes later as Aaron Rowe’s through ball found Holmes who made no mistake from close range to put the Terriers in command.
Swansea could hardly believe their eyes, and as they tried to come to terms with the events that were unfolding in front of their eyes, they fell 4-1 down as Holmes’ rasping effort sailed into the top corner.
Having dragged themselves back into the contest, Swansea quickly realised the game was beyond them, and Cooper sent on Morgan Whittaker, Yan Dhanda and Ryan Manning for the final half an hour, with Kyle Naughton, Bidwell and Fulton all being hooked.
It was a bold call from the Swansea head coach to use the last of his five substitutions, and he was quickly left to rue that decision as Morris went down unchallenged and required treatment after sustaining a serious injury.
He was carried off the pitch on a stretcher which ensured Swansea had to play more than 30 minutes with just 10 men.
Corberan’s side dominated the ball with the man advantage and saw Bacuna drill wide after a well worked move, although Swansea’s primary focus had switched to keeping the ball out of their own net rather than mounting what would have been a miraculous comeback.
And Swansea’s torrid afternoon finally came to an end following a lengthy period of injury time as Cooper’s focus swiftly switched to the home clash with Coventry City on Wednesday night after a nightmare of an afternoon.
Huddersfield Town: Schofield; Keogh, Vallejo, Sarr; Pipa, Bacuna (High 78), Hogg (C) (Pritchard 84), O’Brien, Rowe (Brown 84); Campbell (Phillips 72), Holmes (Stearman 84).
Subs not used: Pereira, Crichlow, Duhaney, Thomas.
Goals: Campbell 22, O’Brien 48, Holmes 52 & 55
Yellow card: O’Brien 45
Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton (Dhanda 58), Bennett (Cabango 46), Guehi; Roberts, Grimes (C), Hourihane, Fulton (Whittaker 58), Bidwell (Manning 58); Ayew, Lowe (Morris 46).
Subs not used: Hamer, Latibeaudiere, Arriola, Smith.
Goal: Hourihane 45+1
Yellow card: Fulton 6
Referee: John Brooks
You can re-live the match updates in full below: