Paul Dickov is facing his biggest challenge yet at Doncaster Rovers - to re-find their X-factor.
The Scot’s Saturday night viewing was ruined for a third successive weekend as out-of-tune Rovers succumbed to a Brighton side who had previously failed to hit the net in six hours of football on the road.
Dickov will take heart from the way his players dug in after the break.
Through sheer persistence they earned a big slice of luck as Mark Duffy’s free kick bounced off Chris Brown to cancel out Jake Forster-Caskey’s first half wonder strike.
But he will be exasperated by the slipshod defending from a corner which led to Leroy Lita’s decisive late goal - and equally concerned about a flat first-half display which was a far cry from the reaction he had hoped for on the back of the Middlesbrough massacre.
By the time David Lopez curled in a classy free kick from distance, sealing the Seagulls’ first win since September, attention had already turned to a huge run of fixtures against lowly Barnsley, Yeovil and Charlton.
And Dickov would appear to have his work cut out in the run up to those potentially season defining games. Doncaster have lost their mojo at just the wrong time.
While a sobering run of three straight defeats might coincide with Federico Macheda’s return to Manchester United, it’s too simplistic just to blame the bad run on the Italian’s unfortunate injury setback.
The absence of a natural goalscorer doesn’t help.
But most worrying is the way that the qualities that Dickov brought to Doncaster in abundance during the first two months of the season have gone missing.
With Dickov’s fury at the Boro bashing still ringing in their ears, there was still little sign of the intense closing down and all action philosophy that their manager preaches during a drab first half display.
Forster-Caskey took full advantage.
Afforded time and space from a throw-in, the midfielder rifled in an unstoppable 30-yard effort with just eight minutes on the clock.
The goal visibly knocked Rovers, and their brittleness was born out in a series of misplaced passes, wasteful balls into the channels and some rather lethargic looking defending.
Dickov’s pre-match plans had been thrown into chaos by the late withdrawal of Theo Robinson and an injury to influential skipper Rob Jones in the warm up.
And it seemed to show as Rovers were underwhelming in the extreme before the interval.
There was little sign of any zippy one and two touch passing, very little intensity about their play, and almost no spark whatsoever. Boos rang out on the half time whistle.
However, the control that Doncaster so visibly lacked before the break arrived as Brighton sat back on their lead.
Richie Wellens, who had cut a frustrated figure as possession was continually given away, saw more of the ball, the home side enjoyed more territory and forced a succession of corners.
Rovers had gained a foothold, although there was still very little sign of a final ball or a clear cut chance - until the bounce of the ball favoured the home side.
Duffy, again bright and industrious, was the architect as his in-swinging free kick deflected into the bottom corner, with Brown claiming the final touch.
The goal lifted the mood of the Keepmoat Stadium. Suddenly it was a different game as Rovers finally had a spring in their step. But there was a sting in the tail.
Last season in League One this might have been a game in which Rovers sneaked all three points. They had an uncanny habit of winning without playing well.
But in the Championship it’s a different kettle of fish - and the harsh realities of life back in the second tier were only too evident as Lita first took advantage of more ponderous defending from a set piece to sweep home a sucker punch in the closing stages, before Lopez added a stylish third in stoppage time.