Bolton Wanderers 2 West Bromwich Albion 0
It was a tale of two set-pieces at the Reebok Stadium, as Albion's fragility in dead-ball situations was cruelly exposed against Bolton.
Bryan Robson's team matched their high-flying opponents for long periods of this game and could argue that they were worthy of at least a point. But a missed penalty and misplaced wall cost them dear.
Diomansy Kamara sent his twice-taken penalty into orbit after his first effort was ruled out because of encroachment.
Despite their profligacy from the penalty spot, Albion appeared in cruise control after the interval until Hidetoshi Nakata's free-kick flew past an agitated Chris Kirkland ten minutes from time.
Kirkland was clearly in dispute with his wall prior to Nakata's low shot and his concern proved prophetic as he was powerless to stop Bolton wrestling control of the game away from Albion.
Kevin Nolan's last-minute goal put an unrealistic gloss on the scoreline and Robson was left visibly bristling.
He pointed the finger of blame firmly in the direction of referee Mike Dean for his role in the free-kick that ultimately cost Albion a valuable point.
His claims that Martin Albrechsten didn't foul certainly had credence, but the bigger issue is how his team responded to the decision.
An obdurate defensive performance was once again undone by their Achilles heel this term: set-pieces.
Kamara misunderstood Kirkland's instructions and left a space that Nakata exploited to cap an ultimately frustrating day for the Senegalese striker.
He was, by some considerable distance, Albion's most creative player. However, in the cold, harsh light of the relegation zone, his inability to either convert a penalty or keep his discipline in the wall proved costly.
It would be unfair to blame Kamara though. He added an extra dimension to an Albion front line that was deprived of Nathan Ellington, who had strained his knee ligaments during a Thursday training session.
Robson held the referee culpable for Albion's loss, but he could take solace from an improved defensive display in a 3-5-2 formation that seems to allow his current squad of players to flourish.
And with Kirkland underpinning their back line, it looks as though Robson might have finally found the platform his team needs for success.
He was on hand to stop Kevin Davies' effort from point-blank range on the quarter-hour mark before Kamara ' s contentious penalty.
He latched on to a defensive header and burrowed his way into the penalty area between a sea of Bolton limbs before tumbling to the floor.
El Hadji Diouf was the guilty perpetrator and despite his howls of innocence, it appeared to be the correct decision from Dean.
The Senegalese international stepped up and slotted the ball confidently past Jussi Jaaskelainen only for Dean to order a retake for encroachment.
However, much to Albion's chagrin, he was again correct as Geoff Horsfield was virtually shaking Kamara's hand as he scored and he was forced to compose himself once again.
But the cacophony of jeers and whistles seemed to unsettle Kamara as he aimed in the same direction but about eight foot higher and the ball sailed into the Bolton Evening News Stand.
There was obviously no love lost between the Senegalese internationals as Kamara took out his frustration on Diouf with a late tackle that left the protagonist of this dispute prostate on the floor.
After discussions with his linesman, Dean took no action, but Bolton's perceived sense of injustice roused them from their slumbers.
Kirkland was left in a crumpled heap on the floor after colliding with Curtis and Kevin Davies.
He looked groggy after a lengthy bout of treatment and was caught out by a deep Henrik Pedersen cross that left him stranded.
Abdoulaye Faye headed the ball across the six-yard box where Nakata was poised to sidefoot home, but his strike inadvertently struck Stelios on the goalline and rebounded to safety.
Curtis Davies flicked a header wide from Paul Robinson's wicked cross, but the hosts were building up a head of steam via their vigorous approach and Nolan's header further enhanced Kirkland's England credentials when the on-loan keeper produced a stunning one-handed save.
Kamara was desperately trying to redeem his earlier error and came close on two occasions to breaking the deadlock after the interval.
A last-ditch Ben Haim tackle denied him before more trickery took him past the harassed Ben Haim again only for Jaaskelainen to divert his low drive to safety.
Sandwiched in between the Kamara show was another gilt-edged chance for the hosts but a combination of Kirkland and Clement denied Pedersen before Diouf drove wildly over the bar.
Albion were in control until Dean adjudged Albrechsten to have impeded Nakata and the roof caved in.
Jonathan Greening was caught in possession in injury time and the ball eventually landed at the feet of Nolan who drove a low shot past Kirkland to leave Albion scratching their heads at another away-day defeat.
Tomorrow night's Carling Cup fixture at Fulham won't be at the top of Robson's list of priorities and he will earmark next Sunday ' s Premiership clash with Newcastle as another potential three-pointer, as a long, hard winter looms ahead.