MIDDLESBROUGH are sinking as fast as the Titanic.
Just three days after reviving their promotion hopes with a great win over title favourites Cardiff, Boro were back to their frustrating worst.
After sub Scott McDonald struck 12 minutes from time, Boro looked set for a rare away victory to stay on the coat-tails of the promotion pack.
But Huddersfield substitute Alan Lee prodded home the rebound with his first touch after Peter Clarke’s header from an Adam Clayton corner was parried by Jason Steele.
And it got worse for Tony Mowbray. Fellow Terriers substitute Danny Ward then fully lifted the gloom at a foggy John Smith’s Stadium with a cracking stoppage-time winner from distance.
Mowbray said his side must improve if they are to be a force in the npower Championship.
“This last six weeks has cost us and we keep conceding goals that we shouldn’t concede,” he said.
“We have to improve drastically. The players need to do their jobs. We are being naive and it’s happening too often.
“Whatever league you play in, whether it’s the Conference or the Champions League, if you can’t defend set-pieces you are not going to win matches.”
Mowbray said he was “frustrated” that his side had thrown away the victory.
“I wouldn’t have been happy with a point but to lose the game is unbelievable,” he explained.
“There was not a lot of quality but we came in with a clean sheet at half-time.
“Then we got the goal and had a few half chances and looked reasonably comfortable. Then with a corner kick and a header and they are back in it.
“We have to analyse it and work out how we put it right.”
Huddersfield were quickly out of the blocks – Novak sending the ball narrowly wide of the right post from the edge of the penalty area after just 20 seconds.
Former Town striker McDonald had Boro’s first effort of the match as he fired a 25-yard strike wide of Alex Smithies’ left-hand post.
Boro looked a shadow of the team that beat league leaders Cardiff at the weekend as the hosts began to dominate possession and look the more threatening.
Huddersfield’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes came on the half-hour mark, as Oliver Norwood met a superb Dixon cross with his head, only to send the ball just wide of the left-hand post.
Ishmael Miller and Grant Leadbitter both mustered long-range efforts for the visitors, before Town’s Adam Clayton sent a low drive whistling past Steele’s left post from 25 yards.
Huddersfield were calling for a penalty on the stroke of half-time when Theo Robinson was caught by a high boot in the six-yard box, but the referee was unmoved and waved play on.
Mark Robins’ men carried their momentum into the second half as the home support urged their men to make the most of their dominance.
However, a mistake by Anthony Gerrard after 55 minutes allowed Middlesbrough to go on a rare attack, but McDonald’s resulting effort was blocked by Jack Hunt.
McDonald gave Boro the lead against the run of play in the 78th minute as he sent a left-footed effort into the centre of the goal to deny Smithies a clean sheet on his 23rd birthday.
However, Lee came off the bench and appeared to have rescued a point for the hosts with an 86th-minute strike from close range.
But Huddersfield were not finished yet, as the returning Ward fired a 25-yard strike into the back of the net in injury time to seal a deserved three points for the Terriers.
Boro now face Bristol City away on Saturday when they cannot afford more away-day misery.