Championship: Luton Town 0 Cardiff City 1
A poor second half display saw Luton's hopes of staying in the Championship take yet another body and possibly a knockout blow, as they were beaten 1-0 by a solid if unspectacular Cardiff City side this afternoon.
The Hatters had produced a fine performance in the first period, as they looked the more likely to score for long periods, Harry Cornick going close on two occasions.
Unfortunately and ultimately crucially, they couldn't take their opportunities though, and then were unable to repeat those efforts in the second period, Cardiff getting on top, and staying there, Lee Tomlin netting the winner with 17 minutes remaining.
Town boss Graeme Jones made two changes for the clash, Cameron Carter-Vickers in for his full league debut, while Izzy Brown was fit enough to start for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the 7-0 defeat at Brentford in November.
Town were under immense pressure in the opening 10 minutes, as City put cross after cross into the area, with the hosts just about clearing their lines thanks to Matty Pearson and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu.
Luton, with Brown at the hub of their best creative moments, had a decent opportunity from an early free kick, the midfielder striking the wall and Ryan Tunnicliffe dragging the rebound well wide.
The Hatters had an even better opportunity on 15 minutes, Glen Rea finding Tunnicliffe, whose marker slipped, allowing him to burst into the box.
He looked up to find Cornick, only for the ball to slip under the attacker's boot, as Cardiff cleared the danger.
Cornick should have put Town in front moments later as found by Brown's interception, he did everything right up until the finish, dragging wide of the far post.
Mpanzu then went close midway through the half, slamming wide on the half volley with his left foot after James Bree's cross fell to him inside the area.
Top scorer James Collins had an opening from Brown's near post corner, diverting wide of the mark, while Glen Rea's header from Bree's corner was easy for Alex Smithies.
A low quality start to the second period saw Joe Bennett's ambitious 25-yarder never troubling Sluga, although he went close on the hour mark when his vicious in-swinging corner looked to be on its way in, but for the outstretched glove of Sluga.
Unlike the first period, the Hatters were struggling to get out of their half at times, City taking a stranglehold on proceedings, with a tiring Brown replaced by Luke Berry.
Dan Potts was inches away from putting those his own net, before Sluga made a superb save to prevent his side falling behind with 19 to go, Pearson getting his back header and backpass all wrong, Callum Paterson nipping in, the Croatian sticking out an instinctive glove to parry the ball away.
However, he was picking the ball out the net on 73 minutes when Lee Tomlin, who had been kept quiet for the majority of the contest, received the ball on the edge of the box, engineering himself a yard and then firing into the bottom corner.
Town almost had an instant leveller, Potts sending over a cross and Collins throwing himself full length only to head over the bar.
Luton boss Jones brought on George Moncur and LuaLua in search of a late leveller, as they could have equalised in stoppage time, Moncur's low shot fumbled by Smithies, but Collins following up, missed his kick, allowing the City keeper to gather.
The result saw Town slip what appears an insurmountable nine points from safety now, after Stoke City beat Charlton Athletic, as the Hatters appear almost certainties to be playing League One football again next term.
Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Dan Potts, Matty Pearson, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Glen Rea (George Moncur 78), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Ryan Tunnicliffe (Kazenga LuaLua 78), Izzy Brown (Luke Berry 64), Harry Cornick, James Collins (C).
Subs not used: James Shea, Andrew Shinnie, Callum McManaman, Donervon Daniels.
City: Alex Smithies, Joe Bennett, Sean Morrison ©, Will Vaulks, Josh Murphy (Junior Hoilett 74), Callum Paterson, Albert Adomah (Gavin Whyte 90), Marlon Pack, Curtis Nelson, Lee Tomlin (Leandro Bacuna 80), Jazz Richards.
Subs not used: Neil Etheridge, Aden Flint, Robert Glatzel, Danny Ward.
Booked: Morrison 77.
Referee: James Linington.
Attendance: 10,049 (1,000 Cardiff).