Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Sheffield Wednesday 3
Just when it looked as though Wolverhampton Wanderers' season was on the right track they produced a performance so woefully inadequate that it resembled a team battling relegation rather than one pushing for promotion.
This was not the side that had comfortably disposed of Cardiff, nor the one that grabbed a valuable point at Reading. Instead the inability to break sides down and the poor defending that gave away sloppy goals before Christmas returned.
The Wolves defence was at fault for each of Wednesday's three goals, with the normally reliable Joleon Lescott among the worst offenders.
"The way we've defended those three goals, you can't win football matches if you are going to defend like that," said Hoddle.
"We made mistakes and it has cost us dearly today. We've given them three easy goals, and I don't know where that's come from given the way we have been playing."
Lescott was caught out of position for Marcus Tudgay's first on the stroke of half time, and his partner Gabor Gyepes endured a torrid afternoon, which ended badly when he was carried off with a crutiate ligament injury that has ended his season.
While other results meant that the defeat wasn't as damaging as it could have been to Wolves' play-off hopes, the implications are more worryingly. Wednesday are by no means among the best in the Championship, but by working hard and keeping to a set plan, they laid bare the weaknesses of Hoddle's reign for all to see.
Time and again this season Wolves have struggled to break down sides who pack men behind the ball. It is by no means a new tactic, but Hoddle's side lack the creativity to play through teams if their counter-attacking football does not work.
On Saturday, the Owls were in no mood to oblige the home side by attacking with reckless abandon as others have done. They played five across the midfield, one up front and hit Wolves on the break.
The approach was successful for two reasons, firstly because of the commitment they showed to get to every ball first, and secondly the performance of on-loan keeper Scott Carson.
It would be easy to suggest that the main reason for the defeat was Carson, and while he played his part, the home side's poor overall performance saw them chasing the game from the start.
Paul Ince is in the twilight of his career, and with Yoann Folly and Tudgay running and tackling everything in sight the Wolves captain was unable to influence the game as he once would have. In that situation the very least that Ince could expect would be some support from the rest of the Wolves side.
That he didn't get it highlighted a weakness in the Wolves side that has been glossed over in recent weeks. It is not just a defender that Wolves will need if they are promoted, it's an entire squad.
Hoddle did everything he could to change the game, switching formations, and urging his side on from the touchline. He was thwarted at every turn, not only by the opposition, but also by the referee, Darren Drysdale, whose performance was as inept as that of the home side.
In contrast Wednesday came with a plan, and executed it perfectly. Deon Burton tormented the Wolves defence all afternoon, setting up both Tudgay's goals and snatching his side's second after rounding Gyepes.
In midfield the visitors were first to everything and hounded Wolves so successfully as to render impotent Wolves' midfield trio of Ince, Ricketts and Mark Davies.
After the break Wolves briefly dragged themselves level through Carl Cort's header and for a time looked as though they might pull themselves out of their malaise and muster a draw at the very least. But Wednesday were not to be denied, and after Carson had again beaten away Wolves' best efforts the visitors took advantage of some poor defending to put the game beyond Hoddle's side.
That the defeat has not done irreparable harm to Wolves' promotion ambitions is more due to luck than anything, and while Hoddle's side are still very much in the running for a spot in the play-offs the inconsistencies that his team continue to show does little to suggest that they would make it past the likes of Leeds or Crystal Palace.
Before that there is the end of the season, and three home games that must follow a different path to this if they are to have any hope of entering the end of season lottery for a place in the top flight.