After all the early hype of life with Martin O'Neill, the honeymoon period is over. Aston Villa's eighth game without a win proved a bitter defeat to swallow when it came gift-wrapped with fresh injury concerns over four players.
Two top-quality goals from England's Jermain Defoe illustrated the gulf in class that O'Neill already knew he had to bridge to truly compete in the top half of the Premiership.
Three months ago, Villa rescued a point against Spurs thanks to a stunning late Gareth Barry equaliser. The club captain scored this time too, but it was only a late consolation that was not enough to save his badlyweakened side from being on the wrong end of the Londoners' 12th successive home win.
And, although he certainly cannot claim to be cast in the role of Baron Von Hard-Up, Villa's manager must now wait to see whether he really has a fairy godmother in Randy Lerner.
For a team with their great home record over the past three months, Spurs were surprisingly slow out of the blocks and Villa carried the greater threat, largely though Gabriel Agbonlahor.
But Spurs started to wake up in the final quarter-hour before the break. Barry's blocked clearance by Berbatov created a two-on-two situation which Defoe might have made more of had he not gone solo and been blocked by Olof Mellberg.
Then came the incident that robbed Villa of Hughes and ultimately Mellberg, after the pair sickeningly collided in trying to halt Dimitar Berbatov.
It clearly rocked the visitors as Defoe's cross-shot flew across the face of goal and Gabor Kiraly had to deny Berbatov with his legs.
Villa started the second half brightly, despite having been forced into two half-time substitutions, Wilfred Bouma and Isaiah Osbourne coming on for Mellberg and a labouring Stiliyan Petrov, forcing Craig Gardner to switch to right back.
Milan Baros had a snapshot blocked after turning sharply. Then, from Barry's corner, Gary Cahill's header was deflected over but the writing had been on the wall in the home side's spell of pressure at the end of the first half and again when Defoe so nearly latched on to
Tom Huddlestone's ball over the top. Thus, it was no surprise when Defoe broke the deadlock.
Berbatov was the provider with a beautifully-weighted, angled pass into the box and Defoe timed his run superbly to clip home his shot, just inside Kiraly's far, right-hand, post.
The second goal, 18 minutes later, should effectively have settled it, another simply constructed strike, in which Berbatov was again the supply line.
Some might call it route one, having come straight from goalkeeper Paul Robinson's long punt upfield but there's nothing much more impressive than a pair of strikers combining in the way Berbatov and Defoe did.
The big man rose to flick on and little Defoe strode into the box to score with all the confidence of a player who has now netted six in his last five games, beating Kiraly at his near, right post with an explosive left-foot shot. "Terrific for Tottenham, debilitating for us," said O'Neill.
It is credit to Villa's patched-up team that they had the spirit to mount a late resurgence. Top scorer Barry's persistence earned his eighth goal of the season as he battled through to net from close range.
With the right run of the ball, Villa might just have snatched something, Robinson having to parry substitute Liam Ridgewell's header, before diving bravely at the feet of Agbonlahor.
But, even allowing for their spirited finish, it was Defoe who came closest to scoring, forcing another save at Kiraly's near post when he really should have bagged his hat-trick.
And even he was upstaged by the previously reticent Uriah Rennie's late blitz of three yellow cards in four minutes.
"A grandstand finish," said O'Neill. "They were forced to hang on by playing the ball out to the corner flag but we still eventually got beaten again.
"And, sooner or later, you have to win."