Kevin van Veen scored against his former club and Vadaine Oliver saw red as Cobblers endured a truly miserable afternoon at Scunthorpe United on Saturday, soundly beaten 3-0.
The game was over before it had ever really began as Town limped out of the blocks at Glanford Park and Lee Novak took full advantage with two goals in three minutes, both of which were entirely avoidable.
Van Veen predictably got in on the act with a supreme third goal and Cobblers' misery was compounded in the second-half when Oliver saw red en route to a second successive defeat.
The season remains relatively young but that cannot disguise the fact the Cobblers, now down in 18th and on a run of four games without victory, are falling well short of expectations and this result - inflicted by a team who previously had only one league win this season - will only ramp up the pressure on manager Keith Curle and his players.
Curle made four changes from his side's last league outing as Jordan Turnbull and Charlie Goode recovered from suspension and illness respectively while Vadaine Oliver and Matty Warburton replaced Harry Smith and Andy Williams up front.
Reece Hall-Johnson got the nod over Michael Harriman at right-back, however all of Curle's best laid plans went out of the window with only 14 minutes on the clock at Glanford Park as his side made an extremely sluggish start.
Playing without energy or intensity and allowing the home side to take a hold on possession, Town were behind on 11 minutes when the defence switched off and a simple ball over the top found Novak in acres of space and he deftly lifted over David Cornell.
Things got worse three minutes later and again the goal was the result of slack defending with Novak sharpest to react after Cornell parried van Veen's header back into the danger area.
It would get no better midway through the half when Joe Martin pulled up with a hamstring problem and had to be replaced by Alan McCormack, with Shaun McWilliams shunting over to left-back.
Warburton and Sam Hoskins struck the side-netting with half chances but this had all the makings of a truly wretched afternoon for the Cobblers and what happened next only heaped more misery on their disconsolate supporters.
Whilst Town's defence stood off him, it was still an exquisite finish by van Veen who had his back to goal but conjured a brilliant curling effort into the top corner, although his subsequent celebration right in front of the away fans was needless.
Town's attacking threat grew towards the end of the first-half but they were hardly peppering United's goal as both Oliver and Goode were off target with free headers.
Curle made drastic changes at half-time as Williams' introduction, replacing Turnbull, meant a change to 4-4-2 and McWilliams going to right-back, Hall-Johnson to left-back and Warburton moving into central midfield.
Initially those alterations made a difference and Cobblers were close to pulling one goal back when Oliver headed into Williams' path and his flicked effort drew a fine save from Rory Watson.
But Town's hopes of an unlikely comeback were doused for good eight minutes into the second-half when Oliver harshly saw red after challenging for a loose ball inside the six-yard box and accidentally catching Watson in the face.
Cobblers still committed men forward and if anything they were the better side with a man less, despite Jamie Proctor forcing a decent save out of Cornell.
By this point defeat had become inevitable, however, and although the visitors never threw the towel in, their abject first-half display was always likely to be too much to come back from.
It could have got worse in the final few minutes when Novak's hat-trick attempt slipped through Cornell's fingers and hit the crossbar before Town's stopper denied Ryan Colclough at his near post to at least ensure his side didn't suffer any further.
Scunthorpe: Watson (Eastwood 55), Ntlhe, Songo'o, Colclough, Sutton (Slater 83), McArdle (c), Brown, McGahey, Gilliead, Novak, van Veen (Proctor 45)
Subs not used: Butler, Butroid, Eisa, Pugh
Cobblers: Cornell, RHJ, Goode (c), Wharton, Martin (McCormack 24), Turnbull (Williams 45), McWilliams (Smith 60), Warburton, Adams, Hoskins, Oliver
Subs not used: Fisher, Harriman, Lines, Waters
Referee: Trevor Kettle