BURY paid the ultimate price for the kamikaze defending that has blighted their first-half performances in recent matches.

The Shakers found themselves 2-0 down within the first eight minutes and were lucky not to go further behind after Grecians’ substitute Liam Sercombe’s shot rebounded off the underside of the crossbar and, possibly, over the Bury goal-line.

Richie Barker’s men were let off the hook, however, after the officials waved play on.

Awful defending from Exeter’s first corner for allowed Scot Bennett to rise unchallenged and rattle the post with a header before Troy Archibald-Henville pounced to open the scoring in the fifth minute.

It was 2-0 two minutes later when Efe Sodje felled Exeter dangerman Jake Taylor and former Bury loanee David Nardiello hammered home the spot kick.

The Gigg Lane visitors – who had not kept a clean sheet in 11 matches – then started to get their act together and looked dangerous, particularly from corners.

When Peter Sweeney swung one in on 28 minutes, Mark Hughes headed the ball across the face of goal for Sodje to plant his header onto the bar before David Amoo swooped on the rebound to pull one back for Bury.

But it all went pear-shaped again as Bury pushed too hard for a leveller and left themselves exposed.

On 40 minutes, the impressive Taylor raced down the right to provide the perfect cross for Richard Logan to head home and put Paul Tisdale’s side 3-1 up at half-time.

Barker shuffled his pack, introducing Ryan Noble and Max Harrop after the interval and they dominated the second half as sixth-from-bottom City started to panic.

Amoo shot high of the target and a Sodje header from captain Steven Schumacher’s corner went just over.

By the time late substitute Ashley Eastham flicked the ball home following a succession of Schumacher corners deep into injury time, it was too little too late for Bury, an issue that was not lost on manager Barker.

“We were the best team for 75 minutes,” he said. “But if you are 2-0 down after eight minutes – and we could have been 4-0 after 15 – you can’t expect to recover from that.

“We had most shots on goal, most of the possession and more corners than Exeter, but those first eight minutes have cost us the game.

“It’s down to concentration, but I’m not sure why that is. We were all over the place in the first half. Why have they got to wait until I have a go at them at half time before they get to the right level, I don’t know.”

EXETER: Krysiak 6, Jones 7, Dunne 6, Archibald-Troy 7, Duffy 6, Noble 6 (Sercombe 7), Nardiello 7, Doles 7, Logan 7 (Bauza 6), Taylor 8 (O’Flynn 7).

Subs not used: Pidgeley, McNish.

BURY: Belford 6, Picken 6, Sodje 6, Hughes 7, Skarz 6, Coke 7, Schumacher 7, Sweeney 6 (Doble 6), Amoo 7, John-Lewis 7 (Eastham 7), Worrall 6 (Harrop 7).

Subs not used: Williams, Carrington.

Referee: Lee Collins.

Attendance: 4,281 (192 visiting).