Town fell to only their second defeat in eight games at St. James Park this afternoon as a stunning second-half goal from Ryan Harley secured hosts Exeter City's League One survival.
Winger Gary Roberts (pictured) netted an early goal to put the Terriers ahead, but after home Captain Matt Taylor equalised to restore parity in the scoreline at the interval midfielder Harley slammed the ball home from range in the second-half to condemn Lee Clark's side to defeat.
As it was the results didn't go for Town elsewhere anyway, so the Terriers will now play in the League One Play-Offs to try and secure promotion to the Championship.
GOAL - Town scored with their first attack of the game inside two minutes when Gary Robertspunished a slip from Exeter skipper Matt Taylor. The home centre-half stumbled after receiving an infield pass from his left-back, which allowed 'Robbo' to nick the ball from him on the edge of the box; the winger twisted and turned to create space for a shot and although the goalkeeper got his right hand to the ball, he could only divert the powerful effort into the top right corner for Roberts' 9th of the season.
The home side, who needed to match Tranmere's result at Stockport to claim League One survival, were visibly stunned after their early setback but soon settled down and the game settled into a scrappy midfield battle.
Exeter's first half-chance came from a 15th minute corner, conceded by Neal Trotman under pressure from big striker Ryan Taylor. The ball missed everyone and dropped to the far post, where Antony Kay unwittingly shinned the ball narrowly wide of his own far post. The Grecians forced another three corners in quick succession, but Lee Clark's side dealt with them admirably.
Another corner barely two minutes later caused havoc in the six yard area; with a swirling wind Smithies couldn't properly claim the ball and Taylor, who had come forward, tried to make amends for his earlier error by poking the ball home. However, skipper Peter Clarke got back on the line to chest the ball wide before clearing to safety, despite the Exeter bench claiming handball.
Exeter midfielder George Friend volleyed well wide of Smithies' right-hand post in the 20th minute after latching onto a pass.
GOAL - Exeter's spell of pressure told when defender Matt Taylor did make amends for his earlier mistake by netting the equaliser. Antony Kay was forced to concede a right-sided corner after the home side crossed into the box and from Harley's delivery, the defender got in front of his marker to head powerfully past Smithies and the defender on the post to restore parity in the scoreline.
The Grecians were on top at this stage and almost notched an immediate second when striker Ryan Taylor flicked Sercombe's right-sided cross wide of the far post with his head from eighteen yards out.
The game was a bruising encounter, with Peter Clarke and Lee Peltier both taking whacks late in the first half from Stewart and Cozic respectively.
Skipper Matt Taylor looped another header from a Harley corner straight into the hands of Smithies in the 37th minute.
A rare error from Player of the Year Peter Clarke gave the home side another chance on goal in the 41st minute. The skipper's touch let him down in his own half, allowing midfielder Cozic to nick the ball away and play it to the right flank for former Town favourite Marcus Stewart; the forward crossed left-footed into the box and when the ball fell back to the edge of the box, midfielder Sercombe drove it narrowly wide of goal on the half-volley.
Town had a chance to restore their lead in the 44th minute when Drinkwater stole the ball from left-back Golbourne before racing down the touchline; the midfielder drove into the penalty area before sliding the ball back to striker Robinson, but Theo got his shot all wrong - hitting the ball against his own standing leg. As the ball broke out of the Exeter area they launched their own counter-attack, culminating in midfielder Cozic driving the ball wide from range.
HALF-TIME: EXETER CITY 1 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 1
SUB - Lee Clark made one change during the half-time interval; it looked like Danny Drinkwater may have picked up a knock as he walked down the tunnel at half-time and sure enough he was replaced by Michael Collins.
Clark also took the opportunity to switch his full-backs, so Tom Clarke started on the left and Peltier on the right.
Both sides had early chances to score - first Kay dribbled past two players in midfield before scuffing his shot well wide before opposition midfielder Harley tried his luck with his weaker left foot, hitting a shot narrowly over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Exeter full-back Tully then gifted a chance to Gary Roberts after playing a horrible back-pass towards the 'keeper, but Jones did well to close down 'Robbo' as he tried to place the ball into the corner from 15 yards out. It was a let-off for Exeter, especially as Theo Robinson was unmarked slightly to his right waiting to tap the ball home.
Centre-backs Clarke and Trotman threw their bodies on the line to deny Marcus Stewart a goal during an almighty goalmouth scramble in the 52nd minute.
SUB - Lee Clark made his second substitution a minute later, replacing Theo Robinson with Lee Novak.
Kay then robbed Sercombe of the ball in midfield and prodded the ball into the path of Rhodes, who used the run of the new substitute as a decoy to his right. However, he sent his long range shot flying into the Town fans behind the goal.
SUBS - Exeter made all their three changes in the 62nd minute, with Barry Corr and Richard Logan replacing Ryan Taylor and Marcus Stewart in attack. Rob Edwards also replaced Bertie Cozic in midfield.
Pilkington's low drive was easily gathered in by custodian Jones in the 71st minute as the game became stretched, with the home side in need of a goal to survive.
SUB - Town made their final change a minute later, with Tom Clarke - who had been involved in a heavy tackle minutes earlier - replaced by Robbie Williams at left back.
Big Neal Trotman headed Roberts' near post corner over the crossbar under pressure from a defender with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Top scorer Jordan Rhodes then drew a magnificent save from Jones in the 79th minute of the game. Williams' cross-field pass was nodded into Jordan's path by Lee Novak and the striker quickly hit the ball towards the top corner on the volley, but Jones showed splendid athleticism to push the ball over the bar.
BOOKING - Jordan Rhodes was booked for dissent by the referee in the 82nd minute after complaining too vociferously having been on the wrong end of a marginal offside decision.
GOAL - Midfielder Ryan Harley then scored a magnificent goal that looked to have given Exeter City another season in League One. Jones cleared the ball up field and when the Town defence cleared the ball to 25 yards out, the tall midfielder struck a brilliant right-footed shot into the top corner, giving Alex Smithies no chance.
Pilkington soon struck a volley over the crossbar with six minutes remaining before Novak nudged Roberts' cross past the near post as he struggled to adjust his feet. In the end, the hosts defended stoutly to secure a vital three points for them.
FULL-TIME: EXETER CITY 2 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 1
Town's Team (4-4-2):
Alex Smithies; Lee Peltier, Peter Clarke (c), Neal Trotman, Tom Clarke (Robbie Williams 72); Gary Roberts, Danny Drinkwater (Michael Collins 46), Antony Kay, Anthony Pilkington; Jordan Rhodes, Theo Robinson (Lee Novak 53)
Unused Subs: Simon Eastwood, Nathan Clarke, Robbie Simpson, Nathan Eccleston
Town Booking: Jordan Rhodes (82)