First Dallas lost Emmitt Smith with a broken hand, then Troy Aikman with a concussion.
Game over, as the Minnesota Vikings took advantage of their absence tonight by scoring 27 straight points to rally past the Cowboys, 27-17.
With due credit to the Vikings, this was all about Dallas's stars -- or the lack of them with Michael Irvin, the third of Dallas's offensive triplets, sitting out his fourth straight game because of a neck injury.
Dallas dominated the first half while Smith scored twice within 18 seconds on runs of 63 and 24 yards, gaining 140 yards on 13 carries in just 21 minutes as the Cowboys ran up a 17-0 lead.
But when Smith left, the Vikings recovered an errant snap that led to a four-yard touchdown pass from Jeff George to Randy Moss to cut it to 17-7 by halftime.
And when Aikman went out in favor of Jason Garrett with what was described as "a mild concussion," the sixth of his 11-year career, after the first series of the second half, it was all Minnesota. The Vikings (5-4) won their third straight since George replaced Randall Cunningham as the team's starting quarterback.
Dallas (4-4) lost for the third time in its last four starts and fell to third in the NFC East, a game behind Washington and the New York Giants.
Gary Anderson kicked two field goals to start the second-half rally, then George completed another four-yard scoring pass for the go-ahead score with 1 minute 22 seconds gone in the final quarter. The pass was to Cris Carter, who caught it despite a premature cannon blast to celebrate the score that went off just as the ball left George's hand.
George then clinched it with 5:10 left, throwing a 47-yard pass to Moss, his third touchdown pass of the night.
Another of Dallas's superstars, Deion Sanders, had a role in the go-ahead touchdown.
He was called for illegal contact during the nine-play, 61-yard drive that led to the touchdown, negating an interception by teammate George Teague on the other side of the field.
Moss had six catches for 91 yards and Carter finished with nine catches for 116 yards while Moss was being double-covered. When Moss finally broke loose for the long score, he was being covered by Charlie Williams.
The game began with mistakes, penalties and missed field goals -- two by Dallas's Richie Cunningham and one by Anderson until Cunningham hit a 39-yarder with 11:21 left in the second quarter. Minnesota had nine penalties for 67 yards in the first half alone.
Then, with 6:21 left in the second quarter, Smith broke loose.
With a first down at his own 37, he broke through over right tackle, cut right and outran the Vikings defense until rookie cornerback Kenny Wright jumped him from behind at the 10. Rather than shrug him off, Smith simply carried Wright to the end zone.
On the ensuing kickoff, Minnesota's David Palmer was stripped by Dat Nguyen, and Williams recovered. On the next play, Smith -- who broke his hand on the first scoring run -- went over left tackle, weaving through the defense for his second score in 18 seconds.