Ten man Clarets were knocked off their Championship perch after being condemned to a first defeat in 13 league outings against Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Leicester City’s triumph over Millwall saw the Foxes climb to the summit of the division, though QPR’s.
Sean Dyche’s side were sluggish from the start and failed to adapt to the movement and craft that their opponent’s 3-5-2 system brought.
Town pressed high and energetically, not allowing the Clarets any time on the ball, and as the visitors sunk back towards their own box, Burnley-born Oliver Norwood and Terriers skipper James Vaughan went close.
First Norwood’s bending effort whistled past the post as the ball sat up kindly for the midfielder on the edge of the box before Tom Heaton beat Vaughan’s fizzing volley from the angle of the penalty area away.
Any signs of quality from the visitors proved sporadic but they opened Town up with a flowing move involving Kieran Trippier, Michael Kightly and Scott Arfield, who had returned to his former club, but David Edgar smashed a speculative effort in to the stands. Moments later, Danny Ings found himself goal-side of Town’s rearguard, but Joel Lynch tracked back incredibly to make a superb recovery challenge as the striker steadied himself to pull the trigger.
Norwood grew instrumental in the home side’s first half dominance, being allowed time on the ball courtesy of Tommy Smith and Adam Clayton’s work-rate in the middle of the park. The one-time St Theodore’s RC High School pupil, who used to be a season ticket holder at Turf Moor, showed exquisite vision and precision to loft a diagonal pass over the head of Trippier and in to the path of Vaughan but the striker was foiled by Tom Heaton who saved at his feet.
In the 13th minute the stadium rose to its feet as both sets of supporters united with a one-minute applause to pay tribute to young Clarets fan Henry Tattersall who died earlier in the week.
But as the applause continued to reverberate around the venue, Town continued to take command and Martin Paterson, whose contract with the Clarets expired in the summer, almost broke the deadlock when his stooping header from Paul Dixon’s centre came back off the post.
Burnley should have taken the lead midway inside the first half when Ings got around Anthony Gerrard to meet Trippier’s deep cross but instead of meeting the pass with his head, he connected awkwardly with a volley that went over the bar.
Norwood was involved again when shaping a phenomenal cross in behind the Clarets rearguard and in to the path of Vaughan at the back post, but the striker couldn’t quite make contact with a header at full stretch.
Then, as half-time crept closer, Vaughan went close on two occasions with the second a glaring miss from close range. Dixon provided the cross once again on the first occasion and as Paterson headed back across goal, his strike partner lift over the angle acrobatically from the edge of the six-yard box.
And the former Everton man should have found the net after Paterson had traded passes with Adam Hammill, but from the cross he somehow rifled in to the Chadwick Lawrence stand that housed 3,600 Burnley fans.
The fixture needed a change, and Dyche acknowledged that at the break when introducing Brian Stock and Junior Stanislas at the expense of Edgar and Kightly.
As the hosts went more direct, almost desperate in possession on occasions, the Clarets grew in to the trans-Pennine clash. Great footwork from David Jones opened up the space centrally, and bought him the time to pick out Stanislas to his right and his whipped cross was stabbed narrowly wide by Sam Vokes.
Town weren’t proving as effective in the second period, but somehow found themselves a goal to the good in the 50th minute. Norwood was lurking unmarked when Hammill picked him out with perfection from a corner, and his volley from 25 yards found the back of the net via the palm of Heaton who should’ve done better.
And five minutes later things got much worse for the Clarets went Michael Duff was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area by referee Eddie Ilderton. Replays suggest the defender’s hands were by his side, in a natural position, while indicating he was also stood outside the box. However, after Duff was booked for his protests, Vaughan found the corner from the spot to make it 2-0.
From that point the Clarets grew even more superior but couldn’t find the luck to force a route back in to the game. Mark Robins withdrew Paterson and shifted to a 4-1-4-1 formation, ultimately to get bodies behind the ball for comfort.
But the Clarets penned the Terriers back and the away side should’ve reduced the arrears when Vokes’s cushioned header from Trippier’s diagonal cross found Ings in acres of space but the striker’s half-volley lacked conviction and Alex Smithies was able to save high to his left.
As the clock ticked towards the 75 minute mark, Ilderton sparked another contentious moment when Vokes’s effort from Stanislas’s centre was wiped out for offside.
The Clarets did get back in to the game in the 84th minute when Vokes lifted a piercing pass in to the path of Ings who surged in to the box and coolly slotted beneath Smithies to make it 2-1.
That brought hope and belief, but as the Clarets committed men forward, Duff was exposed as Town broke, and the seasoned defender was already walking back to the tunnel before Ilderton was able to produce a second yellow and consequently a red card after he pulled down Vaughan.
Trippier fired a late free-kick wide in the six minutes of time added on by the fourth official, but Dyche had to settle for only his second defeat of the campaign. The Clarets now entertain out-of-form Watford at Turf Moor on Tuesday.