Emile Heskey inspired Birmingham City to victory over Aston Villa at St Andrew's yesterday and was later celebrating a recall to the England international squad.
The Birmingham striker opened the scoring in the 2-0 win - thanks to a mistake by Thomas Sorensen in the Villa goal - and his allround performance is believed to have tipped the balance in his favour ahead of Darius Vassell, of Aston Villa, and Alan Smith, of Manchester United.
Heskey, who has not played for England since the European Championships in Portugal last summer, will form part of a 24-man squad for the World Cup qualifying matches against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan this month.
Heskey, aged 27, has flourished since joining Birmingham from Liverpool for £6.25 million last May and this recall is no surprise.
If Heskey makes the starting line-up against Northern Ireland, he is likely to face a goalkeeper with whom he is familiar. Maik Taylor produced an impressive display for Birmingham yesterday and is expected to make the starting line-up against England.
Taylor, who last night offered his sympathies to Sorensen, expressed his delight that Heskey has returned to the international fold.
"It will be fantastic for Emile because he has done brilliantly," Taylor said. "He has been our best player this season. He has worked extremely hard and does not get the credit that he deserves sometimes.
"The bottom line is that, where strikers are concerned, people look at the goals. But he has created goals for other players and his work-rate is phenomenal. He is a real handful and a fantastic asset for us.
"He is a nightmare for defenders. They are not used to playing against that physical presence week in and week out."
Heskey has played down his England prospects because, as he says, it is what he does with Birmingham that will ultimately decide his international future. Of his goal, which came after his shot slipped under Sorensen, he expressed surprise.
"It was not the cleanest
shot I have struck but I knew that there was always a chance if I hit the target, which I did," Heskey said. "I did not expect it to go in but you are always happy when it does. It was nice and it made everyone excited."
Birmingham's victory-which was sealed by Julian Gray with a goal in the final minute, means that Villa have lost four and drawn two of the past six derbies. For Birmingham, and for
Taylor, it helped to erase the memories of their 2-0 defeat away to West Bromwich Albion two weeks before.
"Everyone is pleased and buzzing," Taylor said. "We felt we let ourselves and everyone else down in the last two games. This game could not come quickly enough for us. We knew we had to be up for it, that it would be difficult and thankfully we got the breaks and we deserved the three points.
"We had found ourselves being sucked back into the relegation zone and after perhaps one more win we can look upwards. Teams below have got to win half of their remaining games and they have all got each other to play as well so it would be a very difficult task for them.
"It has given the lads a big boost. It is a shame our next game is not for a couple of weeks but it has been a strange old time. We play one week and have two off."
But at least Taylor can smile today, which is more than what can be said of Sorensen. The mistake continues a trend for Villa goalkeepers who seem to consistently make high-profile errors in derbies.
Sorensen was guilty of a fumble in the match between the teams last December, while Peter Enckelman twice allowed Birmingham crucial goals during the 2002-03 campaign.
Taylor, however, is sure that Sorensen will not suffer a crisis of confidence.
"He is a top-class goalkeeper, an international goalkeeper, pulling off saves week in and week out. It is just a bogey thing at the moment," Taylor said. "I do not want to say too much at the moment in case it rubs off on me in future games but I feel for him.
"He is going to have the headlines but he is a topdrawer goalkeeper. There is no question about that. He has got broad shoulders and he will be able to take it on the chin.
"He will bounce back in the next game. The trouble is an error in these games always gets magnified and it was a bit of good fortune for us. But I felt we deserved it, irrespective of how it came about, on the performance."
After the match, a number of players from both teams were involved in a scuffle inside the tunnel. The problem was not deemed serious enough for the referee, Mike Riley, to take the matter further. Indeed, both clubs have already said that the matter is closed.
It is believed that the dispute started when Lee Hendrie, the Villa midfield player, took exception to an act of showboating by Mario Melchiot in the final minute of the match.
Olof Mellberg, the Villa captain, was not believed to have been part of the rumpus but he said: "I knew something went on but I was late coming off the pitch because I was talking to one of their players. I did not see anything."