Port Vale 3
(Pope 30, Vincent 51, Morsy 61)
Oxford United's mini revival was emphatically halted as they were torn apart by npower League Two's most dangerous attack last night.
After an even opening 30 minutes, Vale were by far the better side once the in-form Tom Pope poached the first goal.
United, who had come into the game on the back of a three-game unbeaten run, hung on to half time, but their chances vanished early in the second half.
Ashley Vincent made the most of indecision in the back four to slot a second goal and Sam Morsy made the game safe with a well-taken third.
Vale had chances to make the margin of victory even greater, but a shaken United avoided sustaining further damage.
Skipper Jake Wright returned to the side as one of three changes to the side which started the 4-2 win at Cheltenham Town last week.
Johnny Mullins and Sean Rigg also came into the side, while Lee Cox was fit enough to be named among the substitutes.
Rigg, who left Vale for the U's in May, was booed by the home fans before kick-off, but he came close to silencing them inside the opening two minutes.
The winger let fly with a rising drive from 25 yards which Vale goalkeeper Chris Neal tipped over at full stretch.
It started a high tempo opening to the game, with both sides looking to impress in front of the Sky television cameras.
The hosts only threatened in bursts during the first 25 minutes.
Pope came close after only eight minutes, seeing a shot graze the crossbar via U's goalkeeper Ryan Clarke's fingertips.
The visitors, operating in a 4-4-2, looked fairly comfortable and their foothold in the game began to frustrate the home fans.
It was a slight surprise, then, when Vale opened the scoring on the half hour mark.
Vincent got the better of Mullins down the left flank and crossed for Ryan Burge. The midfielder's shot was saved by Clarke, but the ball rebounded straight to Pope, who bundled in from close range.
United did well not to concede again before the break as the home side found their rhythm.
Both Vincent and Jennison Myrie-Williams on the other wing were electric, while Pope was a threat in the air.
The woodwork rescued United eight minutes before the break, when Mullins inadvertently flicked Vincent's cross on to the post.
United nearly made the most of the let-off four minutes later. Craddock and Constable combined well in the area, but the former's short was well blocked by John McCombe.
Vale doubled their lead six minutes after the restart.
Sam Morsy's chip over the top had United's defence appealing for offside, but Vincent ran on and with Clarke appearing to try and let the ball run out of play, the winger fired in from the narrowest of angles.
United's fading hopes were extinguished by Vale's third goal just after the hour mark.
Myrie-Williams dribbled in off the right flank and teed up Morsy to brilliantly curl in from 20 yards.
In the remaining half hour Vale had opportunities to pile on more misery.
The closest they came was a run and shot from the superb Myrie-Williams, who was denied a deserved goal by the crossbar.
A rotten night was rounded off by Wright picking up a late booking, which means he will miss Saturday's game against Accrington Stanley.