OXFORD United have been well and truly sucked into a relegation scrap after a frustrating 2-0 defeat at ten-man Shrewsbury Town.

Liam Lawrence scored twice as the hosts earned a victory that, on the passage of play, they may have felt fortunate to earn.

After going behind after just two minutes through Lawrence's penalty, United showed control and patience on the ball and were the better side.

Rhys Sharpe's sending off looked to have swung the game in United's favour, but the hosts defended manfully, time and again leaving Oxford frustrated.

As United pushed for a goal, Shrewsbury caught them on the break and after Jake Wright fouled Bobby Grant, Lawrence rifled home the free kick.

United could not have got off to a worse start, finding themselves a goal down after just two minutes.

Cameron Gayle burst forward and Wright tripped the wing-back just inside the area to hand Shrewsbury a chance to take a very early lead.

Lawrence confidently stepped up and dispatched the ball past the outstretched Ryan Clarke to put the hosts in front.

However, to United's credit the early goal did not effect them, pressing the hosts while they were by far the tidier in possession.

Danny Hylton, back from a two-game ban, looked lively up front and on 12 minutes knicked the ball off Jermaine Grandison and crossed for United's on rushing midfielders, but Alex MacDonald was beaten to the ball.

Shrewsbury looked nervy in possession, but had a golden opportunity to double their lead on 25 minutes.

Lawrence's corner was nodded down and top scorer James Collins looked certain to score, but volleyed over from two yards out.

United ended the half the stronger side, with Kemar Roofe testing Jayson Leutwiler, before Hylton twice forced a save out of the Shrewsbury keeper.

The visitors continued to control the game and Hylton was inches away from connecting with Roofe's cross as the half drew to a close.

Oxford continued in the same vein after the break and on 51 minutes Hylton curled the ball just wide after good work from Roofe and Patrick Hoban.

With United controlling proceedings, the game turned in their favour when Sharpe, making his home debut, was shown two yellows in quick succession for fouls on Roofe.

The stage seemed set for Oxford to earn at least a point, with Shrewsbury reverting to four at the back.

However, too many times United found themselves on the edge of the host's box and unable to pull the trigger through a field of defenders.

Head coach Michael Appleton introduced James Roberts and within minutes of coming on, the teenager set up Josh Ruffels who tested Leutwiler from 20 yards.

United, in terms of possession were taking advantage of the extra men but Shrewsbury continued to defend resolutely.

With 15 minutes to go, Oxford continued to press with Roberts having a shot blocked, Hylton seeing an effort deflect over and substitute Callum O'Dowda heading wide.

However, for all United's effort they were caught on the counter. Grant broke forward and beat O'Dowda, before being brought down by Wright on the edge of the area.

Lawrence grabbed the ball and smashed it into the top corner past the despairing Clarke to send the home fans into raptures.

Much was the frustration around the United players that Clarke and MacDonald were booked for a coming together as Lawrence wheeled away celebrating.

United pressed for a goal as the game petered out, but their performance ultimately heralded no reward.

Shrewsbury (3-5-2): Leutwiler, Ellis (Demetriou 62), Goldson, Grandison, Gayle, Woods, Lawrence, Grant, Sharpe, Collins (Barnett 65), Akpa-Akpro.

Unused subs: Halstead, Vernon, Southern, Mangan, Mandron.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Clarke, Baldock, Mullins, Wright, Skarz (O'Dowda 76), MacDonald, Collins, Ruffels, Roofe (Gnanduillet 85), Hylton, Hoban (Roberts 69).

Unused subs: Ashdown, Rose, Long, Dunkley.

Referee: Tony Harrington.

Attendance: 5,265 (359 visitors).