This ending was a cruel blow for Birmingham in a match where they had displayed the same dogged resistance that largely kept reigning champions Manchester United at bay on the opening day of the season.
It was even crueller on Stephen Carr, who was returning to his former stomping ground. The Irish right-back, who began his career at Tottenham, was as consistently impressive as he has been throughout his Birmingham career on Saturday afternoon.
However his slip on the halfway line in the fifth minute of stoppage time handed possession to Tom Huddlestone, who sent Roman Pavlyuchenko clear and the ball found its way to Aaron Lennon, who cut in from the right and clinically delivered his low, 20-yard shot into Joe Hart’s near post corner.
Alex McLeish later described the injury-time winner as ‘a boot in the proverbials’ and the Scotsman couldn’t have put it any better. Birmingham were on course for a precious point and could have even left White Hart Lane with all three.
Tottenham are a dangerous, well-balanced unit with pace, power and goals and it will be an injustice if they aren’t in the mix for a top four place this season. So Birmingham can hold their heads up high that they came agonisingly close to slowing the momentum of Harry Redknapp’s seemingly unstoppable side.
However while the Premier League new boys continue to earn respect in the backyards of the top flight’s stalwarts, that isn’t what is going to help them avoid relegation this season.
McLeish’s biggest problem appears to be where goals will come from. Garry O’Connor, who led the Birmingham attack on his own for 73 minutes in north London, continues to struggle to find sharpness in front of goal.
Birmingham’s goal hopes appear to be firmly pinned on Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez, a 74th-minute substitute, who caused the Tottenham defence problems when he came on. The Ecuador international striker must now be in pole position for a starting place in the Second City derby at home to Aston Villa in just under two weeks.
Birmingham’s only goal at White Hart Lane came via Lee Bowyer, four days after the midfielder had opened his season account at Southampton. The former England international found himself in the right place after O’Connor’s deflected shot and Benitez’s presence had caused panic between Alan Hutton and Carlo Cudicini.
It was a immediate response from Peter Crouch’s 72nd-minute opener for Spurs and set up a nervy finale for the home side.
Tottenham manager Redknapp later insisted that his side had ‘battered’ Birmingham and that had certainly been the case for almost three-quarters of this match-up.
During the first-half, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane should have put the hosts ahead but the duo were uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal. At times, Birmingham had ten players behind the ball as they continued to withstand wave after wave of Tottenham attacks.
As Defoe and Keane miscued efforts in the penalty area, Hart had to be alert to twice keep out Lennon while Carr brilliantly blocked a shot from the England international winger at the far post.
Injuries to key Tottenham players helped hand Birmingham a foothold in the game.
Ledley King was substituted at the half-time interval with a suspected groin tear and, five minutes into the second half, the impressive Luka Modric limped off with what later turned out to be a fractured right fibula.
However the introduction of Crouch for Modric didn’t make Birmingham’s defence’s afternoon any easier as the towering England international striker was a real handful.
It looked a though Crouch’s efforts were going to be in vain. Crouch saw a header rattle off the bar, another cleared off the line by Lee Carsley and Hart save at the near post.
Yet the ex-Aston Villa player’s breakthrough eventually arrived when Hart failed to collect a Huddlestone free-kick from the right and Crouch towered above Roger Johnson to head home at the far post.
Bowyer nipped in from close range to level terms three minutes later and trigger a period that almost saw Birmingham take the lead. O’Connor and Johnson both wasted glorious opportunities while Benitez continued to keep the Spurs defence on the back foot.
However Birmingham hopes of causing an upset were ended with virtually the last kick of the game as Lennon’s effort crept inside Hart’s right-hand post.
Scorers: Crouch (72) 1-0, Bowyer (75|) 1-1, Lennon (90) 2-1.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-4-2): Cudicini; Corluka, King (Hutton, h/t), Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios, Huddlestone, Modric (Crouch, 50); Keane, Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 80). Substitutes: Button, Bentley, Naughton, Giovani.
BIRMINGHAM CITY: (4-1-4-1): Hart, Parnaby, Johnson, Queudrue, Carr; Carsley (Benitez, 74), Larsson (McSheffrey, 90), Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden; O’Connor. Substitutes: Taylor, Espinoza, O’Shea, Phillips.
Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).
Bookings: Spurs – Hutton, Huddlestone (both fouls); Blues – O’Connor, Carr (both fouls).
Birmingham man of the match: Roger Johnson – apart from being beaten by Peter Crouch for the opener, this was an impressive display.