OXFORD United's five-game unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt as they crashed to defeat at Luton Town.

They fell behind in only the second minute, when Luke Wilkinson headed in a free-kick from Jake Howells.

United might have fallen further behind as Luton dominated early on, but they gradually came back into the game.

A lack of spark in the final third let them down, though, with Luton goalkeeper Mark Tyler rarely stretched.

He did save well from Tyrone Barnett, who then headed a great chance for an equaliser wide during United's best spell just before the hour.

It proved very costly, as Howells quickly doubled the lead after Danny Hylton conceded a penalty for handball.

The visitors could not find a way back into the game and defeat saw them drop back into the bottom two.

United boss Michael Appleton named the same starting line-up for the third successive game, but they made a terrible start.

Just 80 seconds were on the watch when Wilkinson rose highest and headed in Howells' inswinging free-kick.

Within a minute Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu should have doubled the lead after Josh Ruffels gifted him a shooting chance ten yards out.

The goal was gaping, but the midfielder blazed off target.

United were rocking as the rampant home side, backed by their boisterous support, swarmed forward.

The visitors needed a few minutes just to clear their heads and it took a quarter of an hour for them to muster any sort of effort on goal - a tame shot from Callum O'Dowda which goalkeeper Mark Tyler dealt with comfortably.

It went from bad to worse midway through the half, when Michael Collins was forced off with what looked a deep cut in his calf, replaced by Danny Rose.

Luton remained dangerous when they went forward, but the visitors did at least steady the ship.

They moved the ball well, until the final third, where Luton proved a difficult unit to break down.

Top scorer Hylton and Barnett were kept very quiet and on the left flank O'Dowda had more joy, but struggled with his final ball.

As a result, all their efforts in the first half came from range, none of which worried Tyler.

Brian Howard and O'Dowda fizzed efforts just off target, while free-kicks in dangerous positions were similarly wayward from Rose and Howard.

But there was a sense the visitors were slowly building some momentum, which began to gather pace after the break.

O'Dowda's trickery saw the amply-framed Luton skipper Steve McNulty go in the book for a crude rugby tackle.

From the resulting free-kick, delivered by Tom Newey, Barnett headed well wide.

The striker went on to have a spell just before the hour mark which proved crucial to the result.

One sharp turn took him away from McNulty and from 25 yards he got hold of a low shot which Tyler just kept out diving to his left.

A minute later came United's best chance of the afternoon, when Barnett could only glance a header wide from O'Dowda's inviting cross.

  • Highlights from the match, via Oxford United's official Youtube channel

It was a bad miss from eight yards and the frustration showed seven minutes later, with a rash tackle on Nathan Doyle.

The home fans wanted a red card, but their irritation over a booking only lasted a few seconds.

From the resulting free-kick near the halfway line the ball was pumped into the area, where Hylton was penalised for a handball.

Long guessed correctly to block Howells' penalty, but the ball rebounded kindly for the midfielder, who made no mistake with a second attempt.

Appleton's response was to bring on Junior Brown and Alex Jakubiak for Hylton and Howard as United switched to 4-4-2.

It made little difference and the best chance for a consolation came in stoppage time, when Barnett headed straight at Tyler after an excellent cross from O'Dowda.

Luton Tn: Tyler, Lacey, McNulty, Wilkinson, Griffiths, Whalley (Lafayette 51), Doyle (Drury 67), Smith (Stevenson 73), Ruddock Mpanzu, Howells, Cullen.

Unused subs: Justham, Guttridge, Robinson, Walker.

Oxford Utd: G Long, Riley, Mullins, Wright, Newey, Collins (Rose 24), Ruffels, Hylton (Brown 67), Howard (Jakubiak 76), O'Dowda, Barnett.

Unused subs: Crocombe, Raynes, Rose, Potter, Morris.

Referee: Mark Haywood.

Attendance: 9,101 (868 visitors).