Robbie Weir ended Bristol Rovers' five-game unbeaten run in a game which saw three players sent off.
He lashed home a 25-yard shot after earlier being on the receiving end of a reckless challenge which led to Chris Beardsley being dismissed.
Ollie Clarke had an effort blocked on the line by home skipper Ian Sharps.
Burton's Jimmy Phillips picked up a second yellow card in added time, before John-Joe O'Toole saw red for Rovers after a clash in the box.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Burton manager Gary Rowett told BBC Radio Derby:
"We started brightly. I thought Dominic Knowles and Adam McGurk were very lively up front and it justified playing them together.
"And then we had a little spell towards the end of the first half where we got frustrated and couldn't quite keep it going.
"It's a shame, but that first sending-off changed the game completely.
"We've had it go against us so many times so I suppose people who say it evens out over a season could be right today."
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward:
"We've tried to get back in a game at 1 - 0, it's decided by a terrific strike but no one will talk about that.
"It's a late tackle and the referee has seen it as a red card. I agree that it's a late tackle and the referee has shown a red card which is his decision not mine.
"Anytime a player gets sent off from the field it changes the game, but I think my team stood up really well and stayed in the game as we've talked about at half time.
"We still had a chance going into the last few minutes, then we lost another player through a foolish act."
Burton Albion 16 Lyness 02 Edwards 14 McCrory 08 Weir 06 Sharps 25 Cansdell-Sherriff Booked 17 Phillips Dismissed after an earlier booking 23 Palmer 20 McGurk (Howe - 86' ) 18 Knowles (Kee - 76' ) 03 Hussey (Bell - 80' ) Substitutes 05 Diamond 07 Bell 09 Howe 11 MacDonald 13 Poole 22 Dyer 29 Kee Bristol Rovers 01 Mildenhall 02 Smith 14 Brown 24 Clarke 22 Packwood 06 Parkes 30 Lockyer 32 O'Toole Dismissed 19 Beardsley Dismissed 10 Richards 07 Clarkson (Harrold - 62' ) Substitutes 09 Harrold 15 Norburn 18 Harding 20 Gough 31 Hunter 34 Keary 35 Southway
Ref: Paul Tierney