Torquay United 0 Birmingham City 0
It was like the bad old days for supporters at Plainmoor as Birmingham served up a second-half performance that matched the recent debacle at Manchester City for its ineptitude.
If Steve Bruce's team had produced this performance against any team in the Premiership (Sunderland included) they would have been on the receiving end of another heavy defeat.
Fifteen years ago, Birmingham fans descended on the English Riviera in their thousands to witness a shocking performance [which included this reporter] that led to an embarrassing exit from the FA Cup at the first hurdle.
However, the incumbents of the royal blue shirts are light years ahead of the boys of '91 while Torquay are a rung further down the league ladder. In fact, they are placed 90th in England but there isn't much else that has changed at Plainmoor.
The ground has had a lick of paint and possesses a few extra seats but, for supporters, this was a chance to roll back the years. A brass band played on the pitch before the match while the theme tune to Grandstand was blaring over the tannoy system, which only added to the notion of being stuck in a time warp.
Away fans could have a drink safe in the knowledge that it was a 3pm kick-off and stand up behind the goal without it costing you an arm and a leg to watch.
With a rare opportunity to cavort and jump around, there was a carnival atmosphere beforehand; a good, oldfashioned terrace chant and dance of Knees up Mother Brown, for heaven's sake! But that is about as good as it got for Birmingham fans.
Memories of those dark days in the late Eighties and early Nineties [which included this reporter] came flooding back as they were made to look second best against a team that has lost at home this season to Bristol
Rovers, Chester City and Carlisle United. They also lost 4-1 and 3-0 respectively at those footballing giants of Rochdale and Mansfield.
Bruce's team were fresh from their best win of the campaign, against Wigan. Only the players and manager will know whether there was an air of complacency before the match; that they could not lift themselves out of a self-induced torpor all afternoon suggested it was there in abundance.
The last time Birmingham travelled to Torquay for a third-round FA Cup tie they returned with a 7-1 win - the best team in the club's history reached the final in 1956 as well as finishing sixth in the top flight.
Quite what Alex Govan, Eddie Brown, Noel Kinsey and Gil Merrick would have made of this shambolic performance is anyone's guess. There were players who looked as though the last place on earth they wanted to be was at Plainmoor on a freezing Saturday afternoon.
With Premiership survival very much the priority for Blues, it is clear that the FA Cup is not high on Bruce's agenda otherwise Matthew Upson, Muzzy Izzet and Chris Sutton would have been pressganged into action.
Football has a nasty habit of biting you on the backside when you least expect it and Birmingham can see the teeth marks after this experience.
Maik Taylor spilled Martin Phillips' cross under a challenge from Kevin Hill after six minutes. Although Tony Bedeau's 'goal' was ruled out for a foul by Hill, no Birmingham players appealed. It set the tone for an afternoon of trauma.
Birmingham were generally in the ascendancy during the first half but Emile Heskey scooped a golden opportunity over the bar and Jermaine Pennant's deflected shot whistled past Andrew Marriott's post.
Heskey is starting to look like a man who has carried the forward line for 18 months. It is little wonder he is toiling.
Bereft of support and service, his confidence is starting to ebb and he will be counting the days to Chris Sutton's debut alongside him next week - Jiri Jarosik is likely to be one of the fall guys after this performance.
Even during the pre-match warm-up he could not wait to return to the warmth of the dressing-room in his tracksuit bottoms and gloves, and was the last player to appear prior to kick-off. Bruce, visibly annoyed at the Czech Republic international's work ethic, berated him during the first half before allowing him to stay in the warmth permanently at half time.
Birmingham's midfield was over-run and, Pennant aside, showed little or no threat offensively. Consequently the defence was over-worked and, although creaking appreciably, held firm under a second-half battering.
Steve Woods hit the post with a 35-yard exocet while Maik Taylor made top-drawer saves from Alex Lawless, and Alan Connell (twice). Kenny Cunningham also hacked a Tony Bedeau shot off the line and although Walter Pandiani tested Marriott in the last minute there was never going to be a winner.
The only crumbs of comfort for Bruce were the competent debut of son Alex (at right-back) and the fact that his team did not lose and become the day's biggest story. However, the difference between the performance here and the excellent showing against Wigan is alarming.
A malaise has set in among certain players. Bruce's broom will need to sweep long and hard in the summer as this team needs a clear-out.
If they approach any Premiership matches in the manner they did this, the prospect of the bad old days returning will become reality.