A difficult week on the road for the Brewers culminated in a 4-2 defeat away at promotion chasing Sheffield Wednesday as late goals from Sam Winnall and Tom Hamer proved to be little more than consolations.
Albion were already four goals down after Wednesday skipper Barry Bannan scored one and had a hand in two further Wednesday goals to give the home side complete control after Albion had looked good in the first twenty minutes.
Bannan calmly finished to give the hosts the lead after a good save from Ben Garratt and a second goal four minutes later, a penalty from Michael Smith after Bannan's speculative cross hit an arm put the game firmly in Darren Moore's side's hands. Further goals in the second half from Mallik Wilks and Fisayo Dele-Bashiru left Albion well adrift before Winnall struck against his former side and Wednesday also saw Lee Gregory miss a penalty before Hamer scored Albion's second but it was all to no avail.
Injury and illness took its toll on the starting eleven for Albion with skipper John Brayford the most notable casualty having failed to finish Tuesday's game at Bolton with a calf problem. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who started the game on the left side of midfield at the UniBol missed out through illness whilst a third change saw Davis Keillor-Dunn drop to the bench. In came Calum Butcher as Deji Oshilaja dropped into the back four and took on the captain's armband. Jonny Smith and Joe Powell were drafted into the wide midfield roles. The good news was the availability of Winnall to take his place amongst the substitutes.
Albion looked bright in the opening exchanges as the wide expanses of Hillsborough allowed Smith and Powell to get forwards well. Tyler Onyango was making his presence felt and a strong run through the middle on fourteen minutes saw him shake off the attentions of Tyreeq Bakinson and drive to the edge of the box before sending a low shot straight at David Stockdale.
Wednesday looked dangerous when they could get skipper Bannan on the ball and a set piece routine allowed him to deliver a ball into the box that was only half cleared for Marvin Johnson to drive a shot over the bar. But it was a warning of his quality that Albion failed to heed when the Scot put his side ahead midway through the half. Ben Garratt did well to save Bakinson's shot and push the ball out wide, but not far enough as BANNAN seized on it and calmly slotted into the far top corner.
Things got worse for Albion four minutes later when SMITH fired home confidently from the penalty spot. Bannan was at the heart of things again sending in a speculative effort from just outside the box that referee David Rock adjudged to have hit a Burton arm giving the former Rotherham striker the opportunity to double Wednesday's lead.
Albion were close to getting the arrears down to one as the half drew to a close, Powell teasing his way into a position to cross and Smith stooping to get his head to the ball but undable to direct his effort on target.
Half time: Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Burton Albion
Despite a positive start to the second half from Albion again as they looked to halve their arrears they found themselves further behind eight minutes after the break. A burst down the right from Wednesday found Bannan on the edge of the box. He was unable to shoot but put the ball into the path of WILKS and he took a touch before measuring a curling effort into the far corner.
Albion were looking for a crumb of comfort and it almost came via Smith when he weaved his way into a shooting position and stung the palms of Stockdale with a right foot effort.
A double change just before the hour mark saw ex-Owls man Winnall and Keillor-Dunn brought on for Butcher and Powell.
Bannan's corner picked out Smith in th box and his header seemed goalbound until Winnall did his defensive duty and cleared off the line, much to Albion's relief.
An almighty scramble inside the Burton six yard box almost brought a fourth goal for the home side on 65 minutes. Dele-Bashiru turning smartly and driving deep into the box and only smart work at his near post from Garratt prevented the home side from finishing a couple of chances.
Bannan took his leave of the game moments later as Wednesday but the pressure from the home side was almost relentless. Callum Paterson rose highest at the back post to send a looping header goalwards but this time the crossbar came to Albion's rescue.
DELE-BASHIRU made it four for the Owls with fifteen minutes to go, picking his spot from the edge of the box after Albion had been found short of cover on the left but a minute later Albion had a goal when WINNALL got across his man to head home Smith's cross from the right.
Paterson drew what appeared to be a harsh looking penalty from Oshilaja with ten minutes remaining, Gregory smashing his effort against the crossbar before Albion had a second, HAMER rising well in the middle to send a header beyond Stockdale.
Winnall almost reduced the arrears even further with a low effort from distance that had Stockdale at full stretch and mightily relieved to see the ball curl just wide of his post.
Albion briefly threatened a third as Wednesday suddenly looked a little nervy at the back but an offside flag came to their rescue but with no further goalmouth action Albion reflected on another away defeat and heading into their FA Cup campaign still in League One's bottom four.
ALBION: Garratt; Hamer, Hughes, Mariappa, Oshilaja; Taylor, Butcher (Winnall, 58), Onyango; Smith, Adeboyejo (Kamwa, 81), Powell (Keillor-Dunn, 58).
Substitutes: Sinisalo, Lakin, Carayol.
GOALS: WEDNESDAY - Bannan (22), Smith (26 pen), Wilks (53), Dele-Bashiru (75) ; ALBION - Winnall (76), Hamer (82)
Referee: David Rock