ROTHERHAM UNITED's fine run of form on the road came to a disappointing end as they suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Port Vale.
The Millers suffered a miserable afternoon in the Potteries as Louis Dodds put the home side in control with an early strike before Kieran Agard squandered an opportunity to level matters as his spot-kick was saved.
Early in the second half, Claude Davis saw red for lashing out at former Millers' striker Tom Pope before Gavin Tomlin wrapped up the points for Micky Adams' men with a well-take second.
Following their impressive victory over Bradford City on Boxing Day, Joe Skarz was recalled to the Millers' starting line-up at the expense of Mark Bradley, who was unavailable due to suspension.
Fans favourite Michael O'Connor made a welcome return to the visitors' engine room while Lee Frecklington was named in the original line-up but was a late withdrawal due to illness as Davis was promoted from the substitutes bench to the centre-half berth with Kari Arnason reverting to his favoured central midfield role.
The hosts were quick out of the blocks and they had the first sight of goal when Tomlin's inviting cross saw Pope ghost infront of his marker to power a goalbound header but Adam Collin was well-stationed to collect smartly.
At the other end, Vale failed to clear a Ben Pringle free-kick decisively and O'Connor tried his luck from distance but his low effort failed to trouble Sam Johnson before Dodds' mazy run had the visitors backtracking nervously but his cross-cum-shot was smartly gathered by Collin.
However, the Millers failed to heed the warning as Vale broke the deadlock on eight minutes thanks to Dodds.
A long-ball forward was not dealt with decisively by the visitors' rearguard and the ball broke into the path of Dodds on the edge of the box, who worked a yard of space to jink into the box and after leaving Craig Morgan in his wake, he calmly slid the ball into the heart of the Millers' goal giving Collin no chance.
Despite looking second best for the start of the game, the Millers were given the ideal opportunity to get back on level terms just past the quarter hour.
A sweeping ball to the right released James Tavernier, whose marauding run paved the way for Agard, to skip past Richard Duffy and after the pair exchanged passes, the Newcastle loanee got on the wrong side of Anthony Griffith, who bundled him over and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
However from the resultant penalty, Agard stroked the ball into the corner but Johnson guessed correctly and with a smart save preserved Vale's lead.
Minutes later, Duffy became the first player to see yellow for a hefty challenge on Haris Vuckic before Vale failed to clear their lines following a Pringle corner and Arnason fired a snap volley towards goal but Johnson was handily placed to snuff out the danger.
On the half-hour mark, Duffy placed an inch-perfect pass over the Rotherham rearguard to release Dodds, but despite having acres of space, he fluffed his lines as he screwed his effort wide of the target.
Minutes later, O'Connor was the next in the referee's notebook as he bundled Johnson into the home goal as he illegally looked to meet Vuckic's floated cross before Vale came within a whisker of doubling their advantage when Dodds' slide-rule pass saw Doug Loft cleverly work a shooting position on the edge of the box to drill a low effort which had Collin nervously scurrying across goal.
Arnason then ran from the heart of midfield to strike a rasping effort from distance which whistled past the upright before Loft's speculative volley from the edge of the box took a fortuitous deflection which had Millers' hearts fluttering but the ball spun wide of the upright.
With half-time approaching, Tomlin worked a yard of space on Davis to strike a low drive through the Jamaican's legs but Collin was alert at his near post before Griffith was cautioned for hauling down on Pringle on the edge of the box following a quick counter by the Millers.
O'Connor nearly made the home side pay to the full from the resultant free-kick when he curled a delightful effort which sailed over the wall and despite Johnson being motionless, the ball struck the outside of the post to the agony of the visitors.
Half-time- Port Vale 1 Rotherham United 0
The hosts started the second half with a flourish after Davis conceded a corner and after the Millers' failed to clear Chris Lines' centre, Griffith released Loft, who struck a left-footed effort which squirmed out of Collin's grasp paving the way for Pope, to stroke the ball home from point-blank range.
However, his joy soon turned to despair, as the assistant referee had adjudged the former Millers' hitman offside to keep the visitors' in the game.
In the next phase of play, Agard looked to have latched onto a ball over the top but despite having the goal at his mercy, he dragged his shot wide but his blushes were spared by the offside flag.
With the game in the balance, the Millers' were given a mountain to climb eight minutes into the second half when Davis challenged with Pope on the right flank and with Pope shielding the ball on the floor, Davis appeared to lash out at the Vale striker in an attempt to recover the ball and with the home fans baying for blood, the referee showed a straight red card.
With their numerical superiority the home side were sniffing blood and Morgan's superb last-ditch tackle prevented Tomlin firing a goalbound effort before Loft headed narrowly wide of the target as he met an inviting cross from Adam Yates minutes later.
An error from sub Michael Tidser left the Millers' short of numbers paving the way for Vale to sweep forward and Pope cleverly picked out Dodds at the far post, but with only Collin to beat, he struck the side netting despite looking a certain scorer.
Just past the hour mark, Arnason became the latest booking as his deliberate handball on halfway prevented a home breakaway before Vale effectively sealed the points with 22 minutes remaining.
Following a bulldozing run by Lines through the heart of the visitors' rearguard the ball fell invitingly for Pope, whose clever flick gave Tomlin a sight of goal as he was played onside and he made no mistake as he fired into the heart of the Rotherham goal.
The home side were threatening to run riot and Pope failed to make the best of being put through by Dodds before he came within a whisker of being presented with a tap in after Collin spilled an inviting cross into his path, but a retreating defender cleared the danger.
Pope was in the thick of the action as his looping header from Yates' cross cleared the crossbar before Rotherham's frustration was summed up when Pringle was yellow-carded for kicking the ball away.
The Millers' almost grabbed a consolation near the end when Tavernier struck a fierce drive which narrowly cleared the bar before Agard forced Johnson into a point-blank save in a day to forget for Steve Evans' men.
Full-time:- Port Vale 2 Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Port Vale- Johnson, Yates, Dickinson, Chivers, Loft, Dodds (Williamson 84), Tomlin (Shuker 78), Pope, Lines, Griffith (Birchall 73), Duffy. Unused:- Boot, Lloyd, Hughes, Hugill.
Rotherham- Collin, Skarz, Arnason, Davis, Revell (Tubbs 84), O'Connor (Brindley 61), Pringle, Morgan, Agard, Tavernier, Vuckic (Tidser 58). Unused:- Shearer, Mills, Worrall.
Attendance:- 6738 (1205)