ALBION fell to a cruel last ditch defeat amid high controversy as Portsmouth grabbed a stoppage time winner through defender Matt Clarke with claims for both offside and handball in the build up waved away by the officials.
The Brewers had looked more than worthy of a point and indeed were the better side for long spells in the second half bul ultimately saw their five match unbeaten run ended by Kenny Jackett's promotion chasers.
The visitors had led from the half hour mark when Ben Close struck a superb effort into the top corner but Albion fought back catching Pompey cold after the break with Liam Boyce thumping home a header two minutes into the second period.
After the resounding 3-0 victory over Scunthorpe last weekend Nigel Clough was forced into one change for the visit of Portsmouth. Goalkeeper Brad Collins picked up a groin injury in training on Thursday and was forced to sit the game out meaning a first start since August for Stephen Bywater. Academy graduate Callum Hawkins stepped up to the bench.
Whilst both sides looked to get the ball down and play some good flowing football it took a little while for either side to create anything meaningful in terms of chances. Although Clarke glanced a header over without seriously troubling Bywater early on it was the tenth minute when Albion had the first real opening, John Brayford's cross finding Marcus Harness in the middle and his knock down providing Boyce with the chance to shoot with his shot lacking the power to extend Craig MacGillivray.
Albion were moving the ball around with confidence and when Scott Fraser was afforded space to get forward and slip Boyce in on his outside the midfielder was all set to pounce on the return pass until Tom Naylor got a crucial foot in to clear. And with Albion buoyed by their early pressure Jamie Allen went closest yet with a drilled shot from just outside the box that was just wide of the near post.
There was just a danger that Albion might overplay at times and when Kyle McFadzean got caught in possession Pompey were quick to try and profit on the counter, skipper Brett Pitman quckly releasing Ben Close out on the right. His low cross was pounced on by Bywater just a split second before Gareth Evans could get there, the Portsmouth striker catching the Burton keeper as he stumbled over him awkwardly.
But Portsmouth are up at the top for a reason and they showed a clinical edge to their play on 31 minutes as they grabbed the lead. Nathan Thompson picked up a loose ball out on the right after Colin Daniel had cleared at full stretch and the full back's ball across the edge of the box found CLOSE 22 yards out to sweep home a superb first time finish into the far corner of the net.
Close's over enthusiasm got the better of him just before half time when he was late on Stephen Quinn to pick up the first yellow card of the afternoon from referee Craig Hicks.
Pompey almost made it two on the stroke of half time, Skipper Pitman whipping a curling effort just over the bar. A two goal lead would have been harsh on Albion who had come up against a resolute Pompey defence in the opening half.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-1 Portsmouth
Albion quickly found a response in the second half as they went on the front foot from the restart. Working the ball effectively on the left it was a superb cross in from the left by Daniel which seemed to hang for an age in the air as Boyce rose superbly to emphatically head home his fourteenth goal of the season.
Akins quckly had a chance to put the Brewers in front showing good strength to hold off his man before drilling a shot straight at MacGillivray.
But after a hesitatant start to the half Portsmouth almost grabbed the lead again on 57 minutes, big defender Christian Burgess getting up at the back post to meet an angled free kick with a powerful header than Bywater instinctively turned over the bar.
It was a very open game again now and Quinn was in on the act forcing MacGillivray into a smart save low to his left from a raking low shot.
Portsmouth looked to their bench in the shape of Omar Bogle and former Brewers loanee Bryn Morris in the last half hour with both Pitman and striker Oliver Hawkins making way for the pair although at this stage it was Albion looking the more potent in attack.
Morris had a great chance to put his side in front on 75 minutes when Lee Brown drove a cross through the box and, under pressure, the midfielder scooped his effort high and wide of the target.
Ben Fox came on for the final ten minutes as Quinn took a well earned rest, perhaps with Monday's trip to Southend in mind. Scott Fraser was also brought off late on as was Harness with Reece Hutchinson and Will Miller providing the energy late on.
The game looked to be heading for a draw even though both sides were undoubtedly going for the win until the late scramble and ensuing controversy that brought the game to its conclusion.