Oxford United's play-off hopes were knocked when they lost to promotion rivals Torquay in a fiery game at the Kassam Stadium in which both teams had a man sent off.

Two goals midway through the second half brought the Gulls victory and ended Oxford's run of seven successive home league wins.

And it was Elliot Benyon, who scored twice after coming off the bench to send the U's crashing out of the FA Cup in November, who did exactly the same thing again.

On 65 minutes he forced the ball home from close range after Oxford keeper Billy Turley had made an unbelievable save from Tim Sills' header at a Kevin Nicholson corner, turning it up on to the bar.

But Turley was at fault five minutes later with a poor goal-kick, which went straight to Benyon.

The striker advanced ten yards and slotted low past the keeper.

The blood-and-thunder contest was watched by Oxford's biggest gate of the season, just short of 6,000, despite it being screened live on Setanta.

Oxford winger Craig Nelthorpe was dismissed on 34 minutes for a high challenge on Mustapha Carayol.

And just before the hour, Torquay's Roscoe DSane was shown the red card, just 60 seconds after coming on as a sub, for a similar dangerous challenge on Luke Foster.

Former Doncaster winger Nelthorpe went in high with one foot as he tried to win the ball against Carayol near the right touchline in the 34th minute, and referee Simon Beck stunned the home fans by producing a red card rather than a yellow.

But the Essex official was at least consistent in his interpretation, because on 59 minutes, when DSane made a similarly rash challenge against Foster on the opposite touchline, just after Foster had slipped, he again brandished the red card straight away.

The game was played at a terrific tempo and the Oxford United fans, who had created a sea of yellow in the Oxford Mail Stand, did their part by creating a special atmosphere in the first half.

Matt Green was chosen to play wide left for the visitors, who went with Iyseden Christie alongside Sills up front.

U's boss Chris Wilder selected the side that had beaten Mansfield, which meant Lewis Haldane - the man of the match in his last game against Barrow - had to make do with a place on the bench following his return from suspension.

The U's were turned around again, having to defend the open end in the first half, and it was Torquay who created an early opening, inside the first minute, when Sills headed back for Christie, but United's defenders managed to get in the way before he could shoot.

Straight away, Oxford threatened on the counter-attack.

However, James Constable was clearly held back by Steve Woods when the U's broke again, and was penalised with a free-kick 25 yards out.

Chapman struck it sweetly, yet it whistled past Scott Bevan's right-hand post.

When Farrell delivered a testing low cross from the right, Constable and Woods battled ferociously for the ball, and the Torquay centre half eventually won it, to clear the danger, but only after great difficulty.

Chapman was sent sprawling in the Gulls' penalty area after cutting in past two opponents, but the referee waved away the home team's appeals for a penalty.

On 27 minutes, Turley pulled off a great save to keep the scores level.

Foster conceded a free-kick three yards outside the area, for a foul on Christie which earned him a booking.

Kevin Nicholson hit the free-kick superbly with his left foot, and it arrowed past the Oxford wall, but couldn't beat Turley who fingertipped it around his post at full stretch.

Torquay striker Christie went off with a hamstring injury was was replaced by Benyon.

Nelthorpe's dismissal followed a scrappy passage of play when United players lost the ball needlessly several times in succession.

Chris Willmott went close with a header at a corner just before half-time.

When DSane's dismissal evened it up to ten against ten, it looked like Oxford were back in with a real shout, but Benyon soon silenced the crowd moments later, and his second goal made it a remarkable 11 goals in 11 starts.

The U's tried to recover with Damian Batt having a long-range drive saved, and Chris Carruthers firing wide across the face of the goal, but they had been undone before that by those two killer goals in quick succession, and their attempts to hit back peted out.

Oxford Utd: Turley; Batt, Willmott (Sandwith 79), Foster, Carruthers (Haldane 78); Chapman, Clist, Murray, Nelthorpe; Farrell (Odubade 66), Constable. Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Hutchinson.

Att: 5,837 (348 from Torquay)