A depleted Brewers side made it four games without a win as Neal Bishop's second half goal condemned Albion to defeat at Scunthorpe United.
The scrappy nature of the goal summed up the game as a whole as the midfielder poked home following a scramble in the six yard box following a corner that Albion could not quite clear effectively enough.
Albion's best chances fell to Calum Butcher who was twice denied by Iron keeper Joe Anyon. It perhaps said enough about the game though that from a home 1-0 win it was the keeper who picked up the man of the match award.
The only crumbs of comfort for Nigel Clough and his men were defeat for Walsall and a goalless draw for Gillingham as the chasing pack also faltered. In fact it is Bradford and Millwall who seem to have hit form and and are perhaps the greatest threats in the closing weeks of the season.
The Brewers line-up showed four changes to the team that took to the field against Bury last weekend. Callum Reilly featured at left back with Damien McCrory struggling with a slight knock. Similarly Stuart Beavon was rested to the bench to protect a slight injury, Tyler Walker rewarded for his first goal last weekend with a first start in attack. With Hamza Choudhury missing through suspension that opened the door for Calum Butcher to return and Tom Naylor also came back into the starting line-up as Mason Bennett dropped back to the bench.
Albion got off to a bright start with Lucas Akins lively down the right. After an early corner had been dealt with effectively Scunthorpe got themselves onto the attack and the pace and trickery of Hakeeb Adelekun got the better of Reilly before the youngster drilled in a low cross that McLaughlin showed good hands to deal with and snuff out the danger as the home attack looked to pounce on any mistake.
As the game began to settle it was the Brewers looking the more dangerous with Akins unable to steer a header on target as Duffy swung in a dangerous corner from the left.
Suddenly Scunthorpe threatened from nothing. Luke Williams curling effort on twelve minutes looked routine for McLaughlin to deal with but the ball squirmed free towards Adelekun beyond the far post. Luckily Reilly was on hand to throw himself in front of it and avert the immediate danger. The dangerous Paddy Madden also sent in a snap shot from the edge of the area. This time the Brewers keeper was able to watch the ball go wide of the upright.
Albion went closest yet on 17 minutes from a set piece. Skipper John Mousinho launched the ball from inside his own half to the edge of the area for Akins to win the first ball. Calum Butcher picked up the pieces and found space inside the area to run into. Moving to his right he tried to drill the ball back across into the far corner but found his shot going the wrong side of the post.
Half chances kept falling to Albion and again they went close on 27 minutes. Phil Edwards cut out an errant Scunthorpe pass and raided forwards. Picking out Akins in the middle, Albion's joint leading scorer shot on the turn only to see his effort blocked. The ball eventually came back out to Butcher lurking on the edge of the box but his looping effort bounced just wide.
Madden headed wide when well placed as both sides sloppily conceded possession and the tame finish probably summed up a scrappy period of the game.
An astute pass from Duffy towards Reilly earned Albion another corner and as half time approached another good chance fell to Butcher. This time keeper Joe Anyon did well to get both hands on a well struck shot low to his right.
Full back Jordan Clarke was allowed to advance towards the edge of the area with the first half deep in stoppage time but with visions of glory in his eyes he disappointed for the hosts dragging his shot wide.
Half time: Scunthorpe United 0-0 Burton Albion
Walker showed an excellent touch to bring a raking ball out of defence under control as Albion looked to turn defence in to attack but with little in the way of support he was forced into a long range shot that failed to live up to the touch that preceded it.
Clarke had an even better chance than the one that fell to him at the end of the first half. A kind deflection from a cross left him with a shot on goal but McLaughlin stood tall to deny him at close range. Madden then had a sight of goal from a ball over the top but Flanagan shut the door on him forcing him to shoot over.
Flanagan showed himself to be a threat in the opposition box getting his head to Duffy's corner but the ball flashed wide of the near post.
Ultimately it was Albion who were undone from a corner on the hour mark. When the ball came into the six yard box a scramble followed and experienced midfielder Neal BISHOP was able to prod home.
A Burton substitution quickly followed. Weir had been moving less freely following a rash challenge that went unpunished by referee Andy Haines and Mason Bennett was sent on to try and inject some more pace into the side.
The young striker quickly burst into the box just as the referee thought about blowing for a foul on Akins but Anyon denied the Derby loanee. The loose ball fell towards Walker and there were big Burton shouts for a penalty when he was sent sprawling as he went for the ball to shoot.
An angled snapshot from Tom Hopper briefly had Iron fans thinking he had bagged a second for the home side.
Marcus Harness was quickly brought on to replace Walker as the Brewers went for another attacking option.
Another Duffy corner and Flanagan header went close for Albion on 74 minutes, this time the ball again went the wrong side of the post but it was mighty close.
Scunthorpe almost added insult to injury for the Brewers on 79 minutes. There looked to be precious little on for Madden out on the left but from long range and almost on the touchline he spotted McLaughlin off his line and went for goal. When the ball bounced inside the six yard box nobody was quite sure where it would end up but luckily for Burton it ended up wide.
Mousinho saw a header cleared off the line from a free kick as Albion went in search of the equaliser and the home side had Anyon to thank for an excellent save from Butcher's rising shot on 83 minutes.
Harness picked up a late yellow card for a clumsy foul and he was quickly followed by a soft yellow card for Madden who prevented Albion from taking a quick free kick.
McLaughlin prevented a second from the home side with an excellent block to deny substitute Stephen Dawson in stoppage time but it could not prevent the hosts continuing their unbeaten home run in 2016 as Burton's stuttering end to the season continues.