Buoyed by Wednesday's win at Chelsea, the home side flew out of the traps, were 1-0 up after three minutes, 2-0 up inside 20 and despite a half-time reshuffle and more fluency to our game after the break, the two-goal deficit proved too much of a mountain to climb.
It took just two minutes for Claus Jensen to force the first save of the match from Neil Sullivan and another miniute to take the lead.
Jason Euell got the wrong side of Dean Richards but the defender looked in control and able to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick when Euell managed to wrap his foot around a cross into the path of Graeme Stuart, who gleefully tapped into an empty net.
We responded via a Richards header from Darren Anderton's free-kick but Charlton were in control of the first 20 minutes and were soon back on the offensive as Chris Powell's effort was tipped aside by Sullivan.
The second goal came via ex-Spur Luke Young after 19 minutes. He looked to have lost control at the end of a surging run but went into a 50-50 with Ledley King, the ball squirted loose, Kevin Lisbie latched onto it and drilled home from 10 yards. A mountain to climb already.
Our best spell of the half followed that goal. Our first penetrating move saw a combination of Gus Poyet and Teddy Sheringham release Anderton but debutant Jorge Costa got across to block.
Anderton then turned provider for Sheringham after 29 minutes in almost a carbon copy of the skipper's winner against Bolton but this time his flicked header flashed inches wide.
A couple of decent breaks came to nothing, Sheringham overhit a cross when well placed and Anderton completely miscued 15 yards out and at the other end Jensen capitalised on space down the middle, beat King but shot tamely.
Dean Kiely had to be at his best to fingertip Sheringham's 30-yard drive wide but we went in at the break with plenty to do.
Glenn Hoddle changed things around for the second half. On came Steffen Iversen for Goran Bunjevcevic, his first Premiership action since August and we moved from a 5-3-2 to a 4-4-2 with King at left-back.
There was certainly more urgency in our play but Lisbie had the first chance, breaking down the right, around Richards and poking his shot inches wide.
Anderton fired a difficult volley wide after 62 minutes and a minute later our best chance as Iversen raced into the box only for his pullback to evade everyone.
Then the save of the match as Charlton fell for the old Anderton-Sheringham corner routine but Kiely somehow managed to tip Sheringham's effort, hit plum on the volley, over the bar.
Pushing forward, we were always likely to be hit on the break and so it came in spectacular fashion after 79 minutes.
From our corner, Scott Parker broke out of the Charlton area and carried fully 60 yards before finding Lisbie through the middle, he took one touch and slipped the ball under Sullivan.
To our credit, we kept looking for a way back. Sheringham's close-range effort was blocked by Fortune and the skipper found himself on his own in the box as the ball broke only for Kiely to smoother his shot.
Poyet's splendid, volleyed reply from 20 yards came with three minutes to go but it was too little, too late.
Dreams of moving into second place in the Premiership remained just that as we failed to recover from Charlton's explosive start at the Valley.