Durham Women suffered only a second defeat of the FA Women’s Championship campaign against Sheffield United.
Goals from Dan Cox and Jade Pennock handed the Blades the three points as the Wildcats saw their promotion hopes take a blow.
Beth Hepple did net a late consolation for Durham, who played the majority of the second half with ten players after Becky Salicki saw red.
Sheffield had won their last three outings and started brightly, with Hannah Reid having to deny Ebony Salmon early on.
And they took a deserved lead on 16 minutes when a free-kick landed kindly for Cox at the far post, and she slotted home from close range.
Durham rallied though, with Emily Roberts firing narrowly wide and Nicki Gears seeing a shot well-saved by Blades stopper Fran Bentley as they sought a leveller.
Salicki then thought she had equalised on the stroke of half-time, only to see her powerful header from Lisa Robertson’s corner saved.
The Wildcats started the second half on top, with Salicki flashing a header narrowly wide before the same player picked out Abby Holmes at the back post moments later – her firm drive straight at Bentley.
But the hosts’ task was made more difficult when Salicki was shown red after Salmon went down when through on goal.
And Sheffield quickly took advantage of their one-player advantage – Pennock cutting inside and firing low past Reid to double their advantage.
Durham made things interesting with 15 minutes to go, though, as an in-direct free-kick awarded for a pass-back allowed Hepple to drill high into the roof of the net to reduce the deficit.
From that point onwards it was one-way traffic as the Wildcats laid siege on the Sheffield goal.
A string of late corners and chances came to nothing, however, as the Blades clung on to claim the three points.
Durham XI: Reid, Hill, Robertson, Wilson, Robson, Hepple, Gears, Salicki, Roberts, Cottam (Ness), Holmes (Christon)
Subs not used: Borthwick, Elliott, Greenwood