CITY’S visits to Kenilworth Road have been few and far between – but rarely lacking in drama.

Stuart McCall had been banished to the executive boxes when Barry Conlon’s 97th-minute penalty clinched a contentious point on their last trip in January 2009.

Before that, the red-card row between Dean Windass and referee Joe Ross overshadowed a hefty Luton win five years earlier.

Going right back 30 years to Paul Tomlinson’s League Cup brain-freeze, there has always been some talking point or other.

But last night, the only topic of discussion was how City’s fortunes suddenly plummeted in a catastrophic 10-minute spell before half-time.

It was a depressingly familiar flashback after the recent upturn in performances – though at least the second-half response, while not producing any goals, showed more of the fight that fans have started to expect.

Luton’s higglety-pigglety home has hardly changed down the years. Apart from that infamous plastic pitch, it barely looks any different from when City fell two rounds short of Wembley in 1988.

The fans remain right on top of the action – an effective weapon for the team with the best home record in the division, especially once they get going.

Luton are unbeaten there since March and that proud record was never in doubt once they had their noses in front against a mix-and-match City.

After Saturday’s first clean sheet in 11 games, the last thing David Hopkin wanted to do was shuffle his defence.

But with Anthony O’Connor and Nathaniel Knight-Percival both suspended, he lined up against the in-form Hatters with three “new” centre halves.

Connor Wood’s return saw Adam Chicksen shuffle across to partner Ryan McGowan and Kelvin Mellor in the middle. Mellor came straight back in after missing eight games with a broken toe.

Kai Bruenker stayed in as Hopkin persisted with two up top, with Jack Payne dropping to the bench after a slight knock.

Interestingly there was no Josh Wright among the subs as Luca Colville made a welcome reappearance after his lengthy absence. The midfielder who began the campaign as captain now looks well out of the picture.

Luton had no such selection worries after naming an unchanged team for the fourth straight game.

And the hosts predictably offered the first threat of the evening 13 minutes in as Elliot Lee drove just over the bar from 20 yards.

But that apart, it was a fairly flat opening quarter. City’s travelling fans were making themselves heard as their reshaped team settled solidly into the contest – but appearances can be deceptive.

Luton skipper Glen Rea woke Richard O’Donnell from his slumbers with a regulation catch – and then suddenly the game exploded into life.

Harry Cornick worked his way into a shooting position and fired through a crowd of players from inside the box. O’Donnell got down low to parry but James Justin was straight on to the rebound, which he buried confidently from a tight angle to break the deadlock.

City looked for a response as Mellor’s header from their first corner was cleared off the line by James Collins.

Home keeper James Shea then spilled the ball trying to throw it out, just swooping on it before Eoin Doyle could pounce on an empty net.

City were complaining it was against the rules to pick it back up without another touch and they should have had an indirect free-kick – as Luton stormed straight up the other end to double the lead through Lee.

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu sprinted down the right and found the attacking midfielder, who flicked it past a defender and almost stroked the ball into the net.

O’Donnell was booked for his protests and Hopkin let rip at the fourth official. It was shades of Tomlinson all those years ago.

The night swiftly went from bad to much worse as Luton piled in a third goal. Keighley-born defender Matty Pearson launched the ball forward, Cornick kept it in by the corner flag as City delayed and Lee calmly slotted his second into the bottom corner.

Bruenker had a big opportunity to peg one back but headed over Lewis O’Brien’s cross from six yards out.

“We’ve had a shot” was the sarcastic response from the away support at the far end.

But it summed up how City’s night had collapsed from a seemingly solid foundation.

That proved to be the German’s last touch as he was sacrificed at the break for Jim O’Brien, Hopkin trying to batten down the hatches to avoid further embarrassment.

“We’re three goals up but can get plenty more on the board” crowed the announcer on the re-start.

But it was City offering a spectacular attempt to pull one back as Doyle let rip with a 40-yard shot on the turn to catch out Shea, which didn’t clear the bar by much.

Payne came on and thought he had an assist with his opening corner – but Doyle’s header was chalked off for an offside against David Ball as he got the final touch.

Ball saw another curler deflected wide as City, backsides suitably kicked at the break, continued to take the game to the home side.

Mellor then let fly from 25 yards but Shea was equal to it with a fine finger-tip save to push it over.

City’s chances were clocking up as Doyle’s flick header was scrambled away in front of goal.

Payne’s stamp was all over the much-improved effort since the break but the goals still eluded them.

Luton had stepped off the gas, understandable given their huge cushion, but the Bantams kept battling for a consolation and Payne had a crack himself but was foiled by a low save.

But there was still another sting in the tail as McGowan’s mistake allowed Cornick to run clear and beat O’Donnell with Luton’s fourth.