Ten-man Charlton fell to a 2-1 defeat to Preston North End at Deepdale on Tuesday night despite a valiant, committed showing in Lancashire.
The Addicks certainly gave a good account of themselves for the most part, but were again undone from a set-piece before the hosts earned their winner early in the second half thanks to a quick counter attack.
Joe Garner headed the home side in front on 35 minutes, but Johann Berg Gudmundsson quickly pegged them back with a beautifully-struck equaliser two minutes later.
Substitute Callum Robinson struck the eventual winner in the 52nd minute and by the time Harry Lennon was given his 74th-minute marching orders after clashing with Garner, it looked certain that Charlton’s race was run against the in-form Lilywhites.
Jose Riga opted to make four changes following the weekend’s defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage with Roger Johnson, Jordan Cousins and Ademola Lookman returning to the starting XI, while there was a full debut for on loan Marco Motta.
That saw El-Hadji Ba, Zakarya Bergdich and Callum Harriott take their place amongst the substitutes, while Diego Poyet missed out altogether.
With six recognised defenders on the pitch from the off, the Addicks’ Head Coach plumped for a 3-4-1-2 formation which saw Motta take up a position on the right of midfield and Chris Solly in the centre of the park, while Johann Berg Gudmundsson tucked in just behind the front two of Lookman and Simon Makienok.
The first effort on goal came the way of the Addicks with three minutes on the clock when Morgan Fox swung in a free-kick from the left-hand side.
Johnson was there to send his stooping header towards goal, but Lilywhites stopper Anders Lindegaard was on hand to make a routine save.
15 minutes had passed by the time the hosts created their first opening, meanwhile, as Alan Browne sent a powerful header over the bar from Greg Cunningham’s cross.
Moments later, Lindegaard was forced into action once again at the other end, getting down low to parry Gudmundsson’s stinging drive, while Lookman carved out a shot from distance which soared over the bar on 23 minutes.
Just as they did at Craven Cottage three days earlier, the Addicks were certainly putting in a good shift during the first-half – a fact which began to see the Deepdale crowd grow all the more frustrated.
A neat exchange between Cousins and Lookman on the half-hour mark saw the latter drill a dangerous cross towards the back stick, but with Makienok lurking, he came just inches away from a killer touch as the ball ricocheted off a defender and into the hands of Lindegaard.
Unfortunately, the parallels between the opening 45 in Lancashire and the first period in West London would continue, with the hosts taking the lead against the run of play from a corner.
Garner was the man to benefit from the set-piece dispatched from the right, sending his glancing header past Stephen Henderson and inside the left-hand post.
Typically, such an event might have seen red-shirted heads drop, but on this occasion, Riga’s men hit back straight away with an equaliser.
The opportunity came about thanks to Makienok’s persistence to win the ball back on the right. The Dane fed Lookman, who in turn laid off Gudmundsson.
Taking a touch, the Iceland international picked his spot before leathering a low shot inside the post from 20 yards, and it was nothing more than the Londoners had deserved going into the break.
Preston had the ball in the net early in the second period when Henderson parried Adam Reach’s shot as far as Garner, who slotted home from close range.
But the forward, who was blocking the keeper’s view from the initial effort, was stood well offside as he finished from close range, with no complaints as the linesman raised his flag.
Charlton opened their opponents up in the 51st minute when Jorge Teixeira broke forward to slip in Lookman.
The nippy striker got to the byline before chipping the ball over the keeper from a tight angle, but could only watch as it bounced across the face of goal before a White shirt put it behind for a corner.
But from that set-piece, the hosts would break and punish the Addicks by regaining their lead.
With red shirts still tracking back and Preston players lined up in the box, the ball was squared to Robinson who stretched out a leg to divert the ball into the roof of the net for 1-2.
Charlton looked for a response and very nearly got it via Gudmundsson for a second time on the hour mark.
Motta picked out the goalscorer who controlled well, but could only fire his shot straight at Lindegaard from inside the box.
The introduction of Rod Fanni for his debut on 64 minutes gave the visitors something extra on the right as the Addicks continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession.
But it was the home side who nearly scored a third when they set off on another quick counter attack.
Garner looked to be in, but Henderson did brilliantly to get out and pluck the ball away from his feet. And with the ball falling to Reach, he couldn’t hit the target with the goal gaping.
Despite that chance, Charlton had certainly been in the ascendency, but their task would become all the more difficult with 17 minutes remaining when Lennon was shown a straight red card.
The defender tangled with Garner inside Preston’s six-yard box after the ball had been cleared, and was adjudged to have kicked out at the Lilywhites forward, leading the referee to produce the red from his pocket and put another dent in the Addicks’ survival hopes.
There was still time for a slight glimmer of hope deep into injury-time when the ball fell to Yaya Sanogo in the box, but the Arsenal loanees shot was deflected narrowly wide to deny the Londoners what would have been a hard-fought point.
Charlton: Henderson, Motta (Sanogo 78), Teixeira, Johnson, Lennon, Fox, Solly (Fanni 64), Cousins (Ba 58), Gudmundsson, Lookman, Makienok.
Subs (not used): Pope, Suk-Young, Bergdich, Harriott.
Booked: Sanogo 79 (Foul on Huntington)
Goal: Gudmundsson 37
Sent off: Lennon 74 (kicking out at Garner)
Preston: Lindegaard, Woods, Clarke, Huntington, Wright (Robinson 46), Cunningham, Browne, Gallagher (Welsh 83), Johnson, Reach, Garner (Hugill 90+3).
Subs (not used): Hudson, Vermijl, Pearson, Doyle.
Booked: Welsh 89 (foul on Lookman), Robinson 90 (timewasting)
Goals: Garner 35, Robinson
Referee: J Adcock