A LATE penalty from Peter Leven failed to halt Oxford United 's losing streak as Cheltenham Town claimed maximum points.
Well-taken goals in each half from Darren Carter and Shaun Harrad were enough for the hosts to inflict a fourth successive league defeat on Chris Wilder 's side.
The visitors' performance was an improvement on the 4-0 defeat to Burton Albion last weekend, but it was not enough to halt their slide and Leven's goal was just a consolation.
Lee Cox made a welcome return in midfield after recovering from a groin injury.
There were two other changes to the starting line-up from Saturday, with Jon-Paul Pittman and Tom Craddock coming into the side.
Daniel Boateng, Alfie Potter and Sean Rigg all made way as the U's returned to 4-3-3.
The visitors did not look like a side struggling for form early on.
There was a good tempo in their play and the forwards had clearly been told to shoot on sight.
But on 13 minutes they suffered a setback, with Pittman suffering an injury while shooting. Potter replaced him.
There was little to choose between the sides and United's shooting policy almost paid dividends on 16 minutes.
Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Brown saw Adam Chapman's low shot late and only just kept it out.
Smalley and Craddock also had long range efforts saved by the Robins' stopper in an encouraging opening 25 minutes.
At the other end apart from one header which Harrad sent wide, United looked more secure defensively.
But just before the half hour mark, they fell behind.
Jermaine McGlashan's searing pace took him past Tony Capaldi and Jake Wright out wide. The winger's cross just cleared Chris Zebroski, but Billy Jones collected the ball and set up Carter, whose 25-yard shot flew into the corner of the net.
It was the latest terrific strike to go in against the U's, but the midfielder was given time and space to pick his spot.
The visitors took the game to Cheltenham up to half time, without a great deal of conviction in the final third.
Their best chance came four minutes after the restart.
Chapman's low free-kick struck the upright and when the rebound fell to Craddock with the goal gaping, the striker blazed over.
Cheltenham almost rubbed salt in the wound within two minutes, when Clarke needed to make a superb stop to parry Marlon Pack's firm header.
It was a rare foray forward for the hosts as United enjoyed a good start to the half.
But once again they conceded out of nothing.
Damian Batt gave the ball away to Harrad, who turned and smashed a shot high into the net from 20 yards.
Wilder responded by bringing on Peter Leven for his first appearance of the season, along with James Constable .
With time ticking away it looked a forlorn hope, but with ten minutes remaining the two substitutes gave them a lifeline.
The referee spotted Constable being held by Alan Bennett in the area and Leven slammed home the resulting penalty.
It set up a tense finale as the U's pushed for an equaliser.
Chapman grazed the crossbar with one shot, while Smalley stung Brown's fingertips with another effort.
But Cheltenham held firm to claim the points, and increase the pressure on United.