The Hatters ended January with a 3-2 home defeat for the second year in a row as Wycombe moved up to second in Sky Bet League Two – eight points behind Hatters – by taking all three points away from Kenilworth Road.
The Chairboys led from the second minute, when Paris Cowan-Hall opened the scoring, and had striker Nathan Tyson on target twice either side of half-time, with Elliot Lee’s eighth and ninth goals of the season not enough to get the Town back on terms on an eventful night at the Kenny.
Just like last term, when the Town lost 3-2 to Cheltenham on transfer deadline night, the opening month ended disappointingly for Nathan Jones and his side - only this time, they are in a much better place at the summit of the fourth tier.
Jones made two changes from the side that won 1-0 at Grimsby on Saturday, bringing the Lee brothers, Olly and Elliot, back into the starting XI after both were on the bench at Blundell Park.
Olly came back into midfield, with Jordan Cook suspended following his dismissal on Cleethorpes, while Elliot was selected up front in place of Harry Cornick, who was on the bench.
Little more than a minute was on the clock when Wycombe took the lead, after the Town gave possession away cheaply midway inside the visitors’ half.
One ball over the top found Tyson in the clear, and although Town keeper Marek Stech saved his initial shot, the veteran frontman retrieved possession and set Cowan-Hall up to lash the ball home from the edge of the box.
The Chairboys should have doubled their lead in the fifth minute when Tafari Moore exploited the space behind Dan Potts and crossed from the right, but Tyson directed his header straight at Stech.
It took ten minutes for the Hatters to string a decent attacking move together, and when Alan Sheehan and Potts combined down the left to feed Luke Berry inside, the midfielder tried to bend one from 25 yards, but Wycombe keeper Scott Brown was right behind it.
Ten minutes later a golden chance to level came along, when Elliot Lee wriggled free in the box and curled a low shot that Brown could only parry in the air towards Collins, who seemed set to volley into an empty net only for Joe Jacobson to get in a crucial block.
Town defended several dangerous looking crosses, before Collins had the next chance, latching onto Berry’s knock-down and smashing in an 18-yard shot that took a wicked deflection off a Wycombe defender, causing Brown to dive low to his left to turn it around the post.
Stacey was having plenty of joy down the right, without finding the killer ball, but it was from one of his low crosses that was turned behind that Sheehan delivered the 31st-minute corner for another great opening – this time Potts winning the header and directing it goalward, but Elliot Lee, unmarked inside the six-yard box, made little contact with it and Brown collected easily.
Elliot Lee seemed determined to make amends, and after snaking his way across the edge of the box, he fired in another right-footed effort that flew high into the Oak Road End.
Wycombe extended their lead in the 39th minute when Tyson took advantage of some poor Town defending from a left-wing corner to tap in from close range.
The Hatters were back in business two minutes before the break, however, and it came seconds after Brown had produced another tremendous save to deny Collins as he latched onto Olly Lee’s low cross from the right.
Elliot Lee managed to fetch the ball back from the right edge of the area and drove inside, firing a low shot across Brown and inside the far post to half the arrears.
The Town finished the half building up a head of steam, and the ever-threatening Elliot Lee continued the momentum into the second, using his low centre of gravity to turn his man on the left 35 yards from goal and drive towards the box, only to see his shot saved well by Brown.
Potts then came within a whisker of connecting with a Sheehan free-kick, before Olly Lee burst down the left and sent another dangerous low cross into the six-yard box that was just too far in front of Collins.
The game was becoming stretched, and after Collins was fouled on the edge of the area, Sheehan stepped up to curl a 65th-minute free-kick towards the top corner, but Brown once again flew across his line to turn it around the post.
Jones had already reshuffled the midfield by bringing Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu on for the injured Mullins and dropping Rea into the back four, and with just over 20 minutes left, he introduced Cornick in place of Shinnie.
Within a minute the visitors had restored their two-goal advantage, however, Tyson racing clear onto a Dominic Gape ball over the top to slide his finish under the advancing Stech.
Elliot Lee dragged the Town back into things again in the 78th minute when he made something out of nothing, after receiving a ball into feet from Berry out on the left angle of the box.
Lee faced his man up, drove at him and, as the ball bounced up, produced a flying volley that Brown did well once again to save. The rebound flew straight back to the younger Lee brother, however, and he lashed the ball into the roof of the net for 3-2.
After a lengthy hold-up as Wycombe right-back Moore received treatment, Town went back on the offensive – Stacey sending in another cross from the right that found Collins unmarked, but the striker’s acrobatic volley was well off target.
Wycombe hadn’t had much of the ball in the second half, but one of their subs – Scott Kashket – found space in the box, only for Rea to deflect his shot wide for a corner. Stech then saved well from the same player, as the Chairboys’ forward looked to turn Gape’s shot into the bottom corner.
Brown was Wycombe’s saviour once more in the 89th-minute when Cornick raced onto a lay-off by Elliot Lee, but couldn’t steer his shot past the keeper as he raced out towards his 18-yard line.
Seven minutes into injury-time Sheehan delivered another pinpoint free-kick that looked perfect for Rea or Potts, but neither of the Town defenders made contact and the chance went begging.
So too, did the Hatters’ hopes of increasing the nine-point advantage at the top, with Wycombe replacing Notts County in second spot – cutting the lead to eight – and Coventry’s 3-1 win at home to Cambridge taking them fourth, reducing the Town’s lead over the play-off spots to ten.
TOWN: Stech, Stacey, Mullins (Mpanzu 57), Sheehan ©, Potts, Rea, O Lee (D’Ath 78), Berry, Shinnie (Cornick 69), E Lee, Collins. Subs: Justin, Jarvis, Famewo, Shea (GK)
Goals: E Lee 43, 78
WYCOMBE: Brown, Jacobson, Gape, El-Abd ©, Bean, Cowan-Hall (Kashket 82), O’Nien, Moore (Thompson 83), Akinfenwa, Tyson (Mackail-Smith 76), Scarr. Subs: McGinley, De Havilland, Freeman, Ma-Kalambay (GK)
Goals: O’Nien 2, Tyson 39, 70
Yellows: Cowan-Hall, Tyson, Mackail-Smith, Brown
REFEREE: Tim Robinson
ATT: 8,564 (791 away)