For all associated with Wolverhampton Wanderers, the name Sheffield United will forever be connected with a most glorious day.

But there is seemingly much penance to be paid for that memorable play-off triumph of 2003 when it comes to visiting the footballing hotbed of Bramall Lane.

This defeat, one largely self-inflicted and partly referee-inflicted, made it nine winless visits for Wolves stretching back to a last-gasp Steve Bull clincher in the early days of 1997.

And all this at a time when Wolves just can't lose on the opposite side of the Steel City, having not tasted defeat at Hillsborough in 13 visits traversing some 43 years.

That they ended up here on the wrong end of the same scoreline with which they have already despatched Wednesday this season was, as aggrieved manager Mick McCarthy admitted, "ridiculous".

It might not have been deemed so during the early stages when the Blades, stung by a fortnight stewing over a disappointing defeat at Scunthorpe, cut Wolves apart thanks to a robust and direct approach which usually had the power of James Beattie as its fulcrum.

Chris Armstrong, Danny Webber and Chris Morgan all peppered Wayne Hennessey's goal with off-target efforts before the Wolves keeper was indebted to the width of his crossbar as Matt Kilgallon's header bounced to safety off the goal frame.

Having ridden their luck, McCarthy's men took full advantage; after a quickly-taken free-kick following a controversially awarded throw-in, Stephen Ward's shot was only parried by Paddy Kenny and Stephen Elliott, recalled from injury for the "knackered" Freddy Eastwood, popped up for his first Wolves goal.

If that was against the run of play, then the tables were turned after the break as Wolves found themselves level, thanks to the first of a series of costly defensive aberrations.

Leigh Bromby's chip forward was probably delivered more in hope than expectation but after Darren Ward missed his kick, with Hennessey in no-mans land just behind him, Beattie nipped in to head home without thought of the buffeting he was going to take in the process.

Yet Wolves rallied, once again got themselves back in the ascendancy, and Ward went agonisingly close to atoning for his earlier misdemeanour only for his close-range header to bounce back off the crossbar from Gary Breen's knockdown.

It was to be Breen, aided and abetted by referee Clive Oliver, who was next up to face charges of neglecting the defence.

The decision to award Beattie a spot-kick after he and Breen indulged in a penalty-area tangle was certainly debatable; it was quite probably the result of Oliver being influenced by a crowd not only still bristling from the decisions preluding Wolves' goal but also impatient with a flurry of previously rejected appeals.

But Breen allowed Mr Oliver the chance to make the decision by initially letting Kenny's long free-kick bounce, then failing to deal with the aftermath, leaving the United striker to make no mistake from the spot before Jon Stead's injury-time effort gave the score its flattering air.

"We're going away losing a game 3-1, which I maybe think we could have won," reflected McCarthy. "We gifted them the three points and that has annoyed me considerably.

"Overall, it wasn't a bad away performance but basic errors have cost us and not dealing with a bouncing ball around our 18-yard area, as we didn't for their first goal, is a cardinal sin."

McCarthy's decision to rest Eastwood after a hectic start to the season reaped its rewards with Elliott's goalscoring introduction, but the manager admitted Wolves' top-scorer will be right back in his thinking for tomorrow's visit of Hull City.