Birmingham City 1 Leeds Utd 0
Birmingham City last night returned to the top of the Championship table for the fourth time this season.
But there remains no great conviction among Blues' impatient fans that their team are any more likely to stay there this time.
In front of only 18,363 — Blues' third lowest league crowd of the campaign — it was the number of stay-aways that said most about the current curious feelings of pessimism and apathy around St Andrew's.
But, in seeing their side look so lacking in inspiration against the Championship's bottom club, those that did turn up were hardly given cause to be kept warm on a cold, cold night. And on a night when Blues took this season's habit of winning when playing badly to another level, the only emotion felt at the final whistle was one of collective relief.
Never mind the quality, though, look at the table. And, hard though it is to believe on last night's evidence against a Leeds United side suffering their second single goal defeat in the Midlands in three days, Blues really are top of the pile again.
Blues might have struggled to reach the form promotion rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers showed in beating Leeds at Molineux on Saturday. But a third 1-0 win in a fortnight was enough from the first of their two January postponements to be restaged. And they've still got a game in hand too.
Blues manager Steve Bruce made four changes from the side hammered at Hull City on Saturday.
One was forced on him by the loss of Radhi Jaidi, suspended following his red card at the KC Stadium. But, still without skipper Damien Johnson, Bruce also opted to bring back Fabrice Muamba in place of Neil Danns in midfield. And he also went for a complete change of strike partnership, giving January signing Rowan Vine only his third league start alongside the recalled Bendtner.
They were the pair who finished the game at Hull and Bruce obviously saw enough threat from them to relegate Cameron Jerome and DJ Campbell to the bench. And it took less than a quarter of an hour for Bendtner to have an impact last night.
The young striker had not scored in almost three months since netting against Plymouth Argyle on December 2. That was just the week before his infamous St Andrew's strop when he so publicly got the hump with Gary McSheffrey over who was to take Blues' match-clinching penalty against Preston.
A sulking Bendtner refused to acknowledge his team-mate that day when McSheffrey converted from the spot to complete a deserved hat-trick. But that was all forgotten as McSheffrey proved the supply line for Bendtner's return to the scoring charts.
McSheffrey swung over a dangerous left-foot inswinging corner, Bendtner timed his leap on the corner of the six-yard box and his header flew in off the underside of the bar despite keeper Graham Stack's attempt to parry under pressure from Vine.
Having netted arguably the most important of his 11 Blues goals to date, Bendtner also went close with a curler just over the bar with the outside of his right foot. But it was Leeds, on the break, who carried the greater threat before the half-time break.
Blues old boy Robbie Blake twice carved out moments of menace down the left, on the second occasion making it all the way to the by-line. And visiting skipper Kevin Nicholls fired one great chance over from six yards after being set up by Richard Cresswell.
But they came closest to levelling just past the half hour when Cresswell, having broken clear down the inside right channel, tried to clip the ball past Colin Doyle. The Blues keeper stuck out a hand to half stop it, but it failed to prevent it heading goalwards. And it was kept out only by an alert Clemence.
The stand-in skipper raced back to clear off the line with the help of the post. But Leeds' protests that the ball had crossed the line were long and loud.
On a very cold night in Small Heath, in which playing conditions were not helped by the added complication of a biting wind, the second half proved scarcely more entertaining as a spectacle.
Despite shuffling his pack of attacking resources three times in 11 minutes, curiously taking off both Blake and David Healy, Leeds boss Dennis Wise searched in vain for inspiration. But, despite being allowed the chance to be the latest set of home fans to gloat at the fallen Yorkshire giants' troubles, there was precious little comfort to be gleaned by the Blues faithful.
Bendtner, in yards of space, had a chance when set up by Vine, only to show poor control before going down looking for a penalty, Clemence firing over in the resulting scramble. And McSheffrey's speculative left-foot strike deflected off Nicholls, only for the alert Stack to turn it over his own bar.
Bendtner also had three more late chances to stretch the scoreline, but having at least tested Stack with the first, forcing Leeds' on-loan keeper to save to his right, he then hit the post with the next before firing over.
Scorer: Bendtner (13).
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Doyle; Kelly, N'Gotty, Martin Taylor, Sadler; Larsson (Gray, 85), Muamba (Nafti, 80), Clemence, McSheffrey; Vine (Jerome, 76), Bendtner. Subs: Maik Taylor (gk), Campbell.
LEEDS UNITED (4-4-2): Stack; Richardson, Rui Marques, Heath, Lewis; Howson (Moore, 60), Nicholls, Douglas, Blake (Armando Sa, 56); Cresswell, Healy (Johnson, 67). Subs: Einarsson, Carole.
Referee: Rob Styles (Hampshire).
Booking: Blues — Muamba (dissent).