OXFORD United’s unbeaten away run came to an end on an afternoon to forget at Lincoln City.

The U’s lost on the road in Sky Bet League One for the first time since September, with Cameron Brannagan going off injured and Herbie Kane sent off for a late challenge in the closing stages.

Lincoln were sharper and looked far better than their position in the table suggests, ending the day 19th as they climbed out of the relegation zone.

Anthony Scully opened the scoring before the break, his fourth goal in as many games against United, with Morgan Whittaker netting on debut after half-time.

It gave the Imps a first league win since October, having had their last two matches postponed due to Covid, while the U’s stay fifth.

United had a few fitness concerns leading up to the game, with Brannagan recovering from a tonsillitis flare-up and Mark Sykes passed fit following a knee issue.

Both started, but Jordan Thorniley was ruled out with a knee injury so Luke McNally partnered Elliott Moore.

Gavin Whyte replaced Marcus McGuane in the other change, while James Henry, Nathan Holland and Anthony Forde returned to the bench.

Lincoln did not play like a side in the bottom four and were on top for most of the opening 45 minutes, although the first big chance fell United’s way.

Matty Taylor beat the offside trap to race on to Ryan Williams’ through ball, but Imps goalkeeper Josh Griffiths stood tall and saved with his legs.

Lincoln looked threatening down both flanks and former United favourite Chris Maguire tried to catch out former teammate Eastwood from the edge of the box on 15 minutes.

The shot had plenty of power, but the U’s goalkeeper flew to his right to touch it onto the post.

McNally slid in to stop TJ Eyoma’s cross into the six-yard box moments later, then showed quick reactions to get up and clear as the ball trickled towards goal.

Lewis Montsma and Scully went close with a header and a volley respectively, while Williams fired at Griffiths from the edge of the box after Taylor created space with a clever run.

United looked to have weathered the worst of the storm and there was a long stoppage when Montsma went down holding his knee after 34 minutes.

He was eventually replaced by midfielder Lasse Sorensen, but Lincoln did not rue their bad luck and took the lead almost instantly.

Fiorini found Scully in plenty of space on the left and United’s nemesis advanced to the edge of the box, before curling into Eastwood’s bottom corner.

To make matters worse, Brannagan had gone down in the build-up to the goal and was forced to hobble off, McGuane replacing him.

Griffiths tipped Kane’s free-kick over the bar just before the break, while a coming together between Mark Sykes and Maguire earned both players a talking-to.

Taylor then lifted an effort over the top during the seven minutes of stoppage-time, as United went in behind at the break.

The U’s No 9 nodded home on the line four minutes after the restart following Kane’s free-kick, but the offside flag cut short the celebrations.

United had returned with a welcome urgency and McGuane was inches away from an equaliser, only to see his shot from the edge of the penalty area fly inches past the post.

It made Lincoln’s second goal even more of a hammer blow.

Fiorini’s pass somehow found its way across the edge of the penalty area and Maguire went down theatrically.

Referee Seb Stockbridge did not move, but neither did United’s defence and Whittaker was able to stroke the ball past Eastwood from 15 yards.

The debutant tried his luck from long range shortly after with Eastwood off his line, although his shot went comfortably over.

Henry and Holland made their returns 19 minutes into the half as Karl Robinson used his final two substitutions, Whyte and Williams making way.

United continued to push for the goal that would give them a chance, although Lincoln remained a threat and Fiorini curled just wide of the post with 16 minutes remaining.

The visitors’ hopes were fading fast and it became even more of an impossible job with Kane’s sending-off.

The midfielder went steaming into a 50/50 with Fiorini 13 minutes from time and was adjudged to have left his foot in, with Stockbridge quickly producing the red card.

It blunted United’s attack as the game meandered towards full-time and they were unable to create any more clear chances.

Lincoln City (4-2-3-1): Griffiths, Eyoma, Poole, Montsma (Sorensen 39), Bramall, Bishop, McGrandles, Whittaker, Fiorini (Sanders 87), Scully (Adelakun 87), Maguire.

Unused subs: Long, Robson.

Booked: None.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Eastwood, Long, McNally, Moore, Seddon, Sykes, Kane, Brannagan (McGuane 42), Whyte (Henry 64), Taylor, Williams (Holland 64).

Unused subs: Stevens, Forde, Bodin, Winnall.

Booked: Taylor.

Sent off: Kane.

Referee: Seb Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance: 8,053 (748 visitors).