Town bowed out of this season's Carabao Cup in Round 2 following a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Stoke City.
Saido Berahino netted Stoke’s opener before Juninho Bacuna's got the second with an unfortunate own-goal.
With the Cup providing a brief respite from league action, David Wagner made a number of changes in the hunt to avenge a replicated 2-0 league defeat on this ground back in January. Notable inclusions saw respective returns for Danny Williams and Elias Kachunga after lengthy injury lay-offs, along with competitive debuts for both Erik Durm and Juninho Bacuna. Isaac Mbenza also made a first start of the campaign at the bet365 Stadium.
A healthy Town following could be heard loud and clear as the tie commenced. However, it may well have been the home support who were celebrating early on, had Saido Berahino found the target instead of blasting wildly over despite taking advantage of a loose pass in and amongst the Town rearguard.
The hosts had started with a spring in their step in the wake of a Championship victory over Hull on Saturday. A combination of Jonas Lössl and Tommy Smith scrambled clear in the six-yard box under the pressure of physical presences Benik Afobe and Mame Diouf, none of whom could tuck away Irish winger James McClean's deep cross.
When breaking forward, Town had an air of solid intent. Stemming from a trademark cross-field Christopher Schindler distribution, Erik Durm eventually received an inside ball from Isaac Mbenza, who had originally made a lung-bursting charge around the back of Cuco Martina. The new recruits linked up well, but only came up with a tame effort which hardly troubled Stoke's Australian custodian, Adam Federici.
Durm's work rate- a key factor of his play which Head Coach David Wagner noted whilst at Dortmund- on both ends was evident from the off; the German raced back to intervene as Peter Etebo looked to initiate a quick break with former Town loanee Benik Afobe waiting for the pass into the channel.
Gary Rowett's Potters' gameplan seemed to be holding onto the ball with patience in order to unlock that stubborn Town door. That being said, the Terriers' energy to hound and press their opponents was of an impressive calibre, even in response to having limited periods in possession themselves.
Chances were of a scarce nature. Juninho Bacuna- the man designated to the majority of the evening's set-piece duties- curled a peach of a cross from a wide-right free-kick and it looked destined for the head of Laurent Depoitre. Lolo surely would have nodded home if it wasn't for a last-ditch clearance by Stoke's on-loan central defender, Ashley Williams.
Arguably Stoke's best chances arrived half-an-hour in. Firstly, Saido Berahino was denied by Tommy Smith on the line having rounded Jonas Lössl with a chip, ahead of Lössl reacting smartly to thwart James McClean low down to the right. McClean instigated the shooting chance having sprinted with purpose after receiving possession just inside his own half despite the efforts of Danny Williams to make up relevant ground.
Isaac Mbenza had shown glimpses of electric pace throughout the first period. But it was a delivery into the box that raised the eyebrows. The wideman, who arrived from French Ligue 1 Club Montpellier on deadline day, whipped a teasing ball into the area for Laurent Depoitre to attack.
Once more though, Lolo was denied by a last-ditch headed clearance by Ashley Williams as the Belgian lurked to give Town the lead on the night.
In truth, the tie wasn't a classic; not through a lack of sheer determination to grind out those rare sights of goal for a chance to play in Round 3.
Half-time approached, not without one last chance for each. Schindler the man adjudged to have played Saido Berahino onside, but similar to the opening chance of the match, the striker lent back on the shot to send it way into the travelling band of Terrier fans in corner of the bet365.
For the men in Yellow, Skipper Tommy Smith fizzed a right-footed shot inches wide of Federici's left post from the edge of the area after good work from Depoitre to retrieve a Bacuna corner which had somehow drifted all the way to the corner flag.
The boss introduced Alex Pritchard at the interval to lift the impetus with which Town could search for that elusive opener.
That Town contingent waved their team forward as Elias Kachunga's agile turn took the impressive Williams momentarily out of the game. Unfortunately the end result saw Danny Williams curl over from distance.
Danny's missed chance was punished, as Stoke found the net just seconds later.
James McClean's initial effort cannoned off the crossbar, and the follow-up was looped over the line although Jon Gorenc Stanković tried his utmost to prevent the eventuality. The goal's action occurred without the services of Christopher Schindler, who was down injured whilst the Red and Whites gained the advantage.
Since that Berahino goal had gone in,Town were really beginning to grow into the game. Aaron Mooy had been introduced and immediately managed to chase the ball down and play in Isaac Mbenza, who's shot from range looked to be sneaking in the corner until it was pounced upon by Federici.
Alex Pritchard was the next man to try his luck, seeing his strike eventually blocked by Bruno Martins Indi on the slide; that attack stemming as a result of Jon Gorenc Stanković's excellent towering header to build the pressure; pressure that was gradually growing as time ticked on.
Town could sense a leveller was just around the corner. Substitute Chris Löwe had a great chance with a free-kick from close range, but a powerfully struck effort sailed over the head of the grateful Federici.
Isaac Mbenza's inventive through ball seeked Laurent Depoitre's clever run between the centre-halves, and as Town's number 20 thought he'd broken clear, Bruno Martins Indi recovered superbly to slide away and halt the advance abruptly in its tracks.
Of all unlikely possible heroes, Jonas Lössl came mightily close to getting a connection on a corner. The Dane missed by a whisker, instead it being Laurent Depoitre with the unlucky deflection in the box to allow the hosts to desperately hoof away.
Mid-way through a long 7 minutes added on time, Lössl again came up for a corner but agonisingly glanced over the crossbar despite climbing highest amongst the sea of bodies.
It wasn't to be a late equaliser which an encouraging second period definitely deserved at the very least; it was an unfortunate ending for Town an in particular Juninho Bacuna.
Juninho Bacuna- who had put in a hard-working shift- skewed a volley from the half-way line into his own empty net, securing a spot in Thursday evening's Third Round draw for the host.
Town return to league action this coming Saturday as they travel to Goodison Park to face Marco Silva's Everton (September 1st, 3pm).
TOWN (4-2-3-1): Jonas Lössl; Erik Durm (Chris Löwe, 77'), Christopher Schindler, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Tommy Smith (c); Danny Williams (Aaron Mooy, 69'), Juninho Bacuna; Elias Kachunga, Abdelhamid Sabiri (Alex Pritchard, 46'), Isaac Mbenza; Laurent Depoitre
UNUSED SUBS: Ryan Schofield, Mathias Zanka, Adama Diakhaby, Collin Quaner
STOKE CITY (4-4-2): Adam Federici; Erik Pieters (Moritz Bauer, 78'), Bruno Martins Indi, Ashley Williams, Cuco Martina; James McClean, Peter Etebo, Darren Fletcher (c), Mame Diouf (Bojan, 63'); Saido Berahino (Charlie Adam, 85'), Benik Afobe
UNUSED SUBS: Jakob Haugaard, Joe Allen, Tyrese Campbell, Harry Souttar
REFEREE: Peter Bankes
ATTENDANCE: 7,293 (716 Town)