CHERRIES’ play-off hopes nosedived as 10-man Sheffield Wednesday scored twice late on to settle a pulsating contest in favour of the visitors.

Defeat at Dean Court left Eddie Howe’s men three points adrift of sixth place with just three games remaining, starting with Easter Monday’s visit to Ipswich.

Atdhe Nuhiu drew first blood for the visitors when he despatched a rasping drive past Cherries goalkeeper Lee Camp after 16 minutes.

But Marc Pugh’s fifth goal of the season and first since October restored parity after 31 minutes, the winger climbing to head home Lewis Grabban’s cross.

However, Wednesday quickly regained the lead when on loan Chelsea midfielder Sam Hutchinson nodded past Camp just three minutes later.

Yann Kermorgant, who led the line superbly for Cherries, got his rewards when his header 11 minutes into the second half saw the hosts draw level for the second time.

However, despite creating a number of chances, Cherries were beaten when Leon Best and Chris Maguire both netted in the closing stages.

Wednesday carved out the first shooting chance in the sixth minute when Kieran Lee’s 20-yarder flashed past the post following a knock-down from Nuhiu.

A mix-up between Chris Kirkland and Miguel Llera allowed Lewis Grabban to set up Matt Ritchie, although the winger’s shot was saved comfortably by the Owls goalkeeper.

Grabban, teed up by Yann Kermorgant’s incisive pass, saw Kirkland dive to his right to push the striker’s shot from a tight angle around the post.

Disaster struck for Cherries when Nuhiu fired the visitors into a 16th-minute lead, the Austrian rifling home an unstoppable left-foot shot from the edge of the box after seizing on Steve Cook’s stray pass. Marc Pugh’s last-ditch clearance prevented Wednesday adding a second, the winger well placed on the far post to keep out Chris Maguire cross-shot.

Cook atoned for his earlier error when his saving tackle stopped Maguire going clear before Kermorgant’s shot from a Eunan O’Kane free kick was blocked by a defender.

Cherries levelled after 31 minutes when Pugh climbed above his marker to head home Grabban’s hanging cross from the right with Kermorgant pivotal in the build up.

However, Wednesday restored their lead just three minutes later when Hutchinson nodded past Camp from close range after Michail Antonio’s long throw had been headed into his path.

As Cherries went in search of an immediate response, Kirkland pulled off a smart save to keep out Grabban’s first-time effort before the striker skied a shot over the crossbar following Ian Harte’s free kick.

Midfielder Andrew Surman was also denied by the former England goalkeeper, Kirkland parrying his fierce drive after Kermorgant’s neat flick had put him through on goal.

Kermorgant nodded Cherries back on level terms 11 minutes into the second half when he met Harte’s corner with a firm header to register his seventh goal of the club.

And as Cherries continued to assert, Ritchie and Grabban both went close to firing them into the lead before Camp saved at his near post from Antonio’s snapshot.

Hutchinson, who had netted to restore Wednesday’s lead in the first half, received his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card for a foul on Kermorgant midway through the second period.

Cherries’ appeal for a penalty fell on deaf ears after Ryan Fraser had gone to ground under a Joe Mattock challenge before Kermorgant’s free kick from 20 yards beat Kirkland, only to hit both post and crossbar.

Wednesday took the lead for a third time when substitute Best squeezed a left-foot shot inside the post after Antonio’s effort had come back off the crossbar following a swift break four minutes from time.

And Maguire’s deft finish from a Best cross deep into added time sealed victory for the 10-man Owls.

Cherries: Camp, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Harte (Smith, 70), Ritchie (Fraser, 62), Surman, O’Kane, Pugh (Pitman, 79), Grabban, Kermorgant.

Unused subs: Rantie, MacDonald, Ward, Allsop (g/k).

Booked: Surman, Elphick.

Owls: Kirkland, Buxton (Palmer, 52), Onyewu, Llrea, Mattock, Antonio, Lee, Hutchinson, Helan (Coke, 66), Maguire, Nuhiu (Best, 73).

Unused subs: Taylor, Lavery, Afobe, Martinez (g/k).

Booked: Hutchinson, Maguire.

Sent off: Hutchinson.

Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).

Attendance: 10,867 (including 1,379 away supporters).