Nottingham Forest suffered a 2-1 defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers at The City Ground this afternoon.
After a promising first-half display the hosts found themselves a goal behind within a minute of the restart courtesy of Benik Afobe.
And Wolves’ lead was doubled when Bakary Sako won and scored a 72nd-minute penalty.
Dexter Blackstock came off the bench to score an injury-time consolation, but it wasn’t enough for the home side whose play-off hopes took a major blow.
Dougie Freedman made two changes to the side that faced Norwich before the international break.
Chuba Akpom was given his debut after joining on loan from Arsenal and Chris Burke was also brought into the starting line-up. Dexter Blackstock, who was replaced by Burke after picking up an injury in the first half at Carrow Road, dropped to the bench and Mo Barrow was absent from the squad altogether.
In heavy rain, Wolves claimed the first shot of the game when Sako brought the ball into Forest’s half before seeing his 25-yard strike deflect off Jamaal Lascelles and behind.
The Reds’ response came from Akpom who, after winning a free-kick in a good crossing position, nodded the ball on to the roof of the net from Ben Osborn’s delivery.
Wolves’ Carl Ikeme was never troubled by the header, but he found himself in a sticky situation minutes later when he was closed down by Michail Antonio after receiving a backpass. The keeper was fortunate to see the ball ricochet behind for a goal kick, rather than into his own net.
If Forest were feeling aggrieved by their misfortune on that occasion they had perhaps more cause for frustration on 14 minutes. Burke’s lay-off for Akpom in the area saw the debutant tripped by Danny Batth as he scampered to receive it. Referee Andy D’Urso waved away the home side’s vociferous penalty appeals.
The game was being played out a high tempo with plenty of strong challenges on a skiddy surface. Gary Gardner got his tackle wrong on Scott Golbourne, however, and became the first man in the book.
Forest were well in the ascendancy and on 17 minutes they came within inches of taking the lead through an unlikely source. Henri Lansbury did well to play the ball to his right for Michael Mancienne, who had come forward from right back. He struck the ball sweetly towards goal but Ikeme was able to dive to his left to make a vital save.
But Wolves showed their own threat shortly afterwards. Sako spread the ball to Nouha Dicko down the right, who in turn rolled the ball back to James Henry. His cross found Afobe in the middle but the striker could only nod the ball wide of the far post.
That was close, but Wolves went even closer on 32 minutes. Kelvin Wilson slipped on the edge of his own area, allowing Afobe through one-on-one with Darlow. The keeper did brilliantly to come out and block the striker’s shot. The ball squirmed to Dicko who composed himself before stroking the ball low towards goal. Eric Lichaj did brilliantly to clear it behind.
Both sides exchanged half-chances before the break, Lansbury firing the ball a couple of yards over the bar with a side-footed volley before Dicko curled his shot straight at Darlow from the corner of the area.
There were no changes for either side at half-time but, within 35 seconds of the restart, Wolves forced an alteration to the scoreline.
Afobe took the ball through the heart of Forest’s midfield, reaching the edge of the area before stroking it to Darlow’s right and into the bottom corner of the net.
Freedman opted for a change, replacing Osborn with Jamie Paterson, and the substitute had a brief glimpse of goal shortly after coming on.
Mancienne’s cross to the back post allowed Burke to cut the ball back first time for Gardner. The midfielder miscued his shot and sent the ball rolling towards Paterson eight yards out, but he couldn’t capitalise and Ikeme smothered the danger.
Antonio then had a golden chance to equalise when he was played through in the area. Ikeme narrowed the angle at his near post and the winger could only lash the ball into the side-netting.
Lichaj was next to test Wolves’ defence. He pounced on a poor touch by Rajiv Van La Parra, on for Henry, and showed brilliant pace and strength to get away from a number of Wolves midfielders. He could only drag the ball across goal and wide with his shot from the edge of the area.
But Forest’s task was made doubly difficult on 72 minutes when Sako did brilliantly to work his way into The Reds’ area before being felled by Lansbury. The powerful winger took responsibility of the spotkick, stroking the ball to Darlow’s right to make it 2-0.
Young striker Tyler Walker replaced Burke before Blackstock came on for Antonio with eight minutes to play as Forest went all-out in their attempts to get back into the game.
Four minutes were added on at the end of the match, in the last of which the ball broke for Blackstock to stroke beyond Ikeme in the area.
But there were only a few more seconds to play and Freedman’s men were unable to complete the comeback.
Forest: Darlow; Mancienne, Wilson, Lascelles, Lichaj; Antonio (Blackstock 83'), Lansbury, Gardner, Osborn (Paterson 57'), Burke (Walker 76'); Akpom
Subs not used: Evtimov, Fox, Vaughan, Hobbs
Goal: Blackstock 90'
Bookings: Gardner 15', Darlow 71', Lascelles 75'
Ikeme; Iorfa, Batth (c), Stearman, Golbourne; Henry (van La Parra 67'), McDonald, Price, Sako; Afobe (Doherty 89'), Dicko (Edwards 67')
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Doyle, Ebanks-Landell, Hause
Goals: Afobe 46', Sako (pen) 72'
Booking: Price 66'
Referee: Andy D'Urso
Attendance: 27,185 (1,964 away)