<i>Birmingham City 1 Sunderland 0</i>

A picture can paint a thousand words.

Loitering outside the players' tunnel in the aftermath of Birmingham City's sixth win of the campaign provided a graphic illustration of why this season has been so miserable for Steve Bruce.

A priceless victory should have left Blues' players with a spring in their step, but it was a physical impossibility for some.

Body language is the biggest barometer of a team's performance and state of mind and manager Bruce emerged with a look of relief, tinged with inevitability.

After a home victory, he is usually at his most gregarious. However, with the news that Muzzy Izzet, Damien Johnson and Chris Sutton were all likely to miss next week's trip to Middlesbrough, Bruce's bubble of optimism had been deflated.

Sutton emerged from the dressing room looking sullen and hobbled past the entourage of journalists, while Johnson was carrying what was ostensibly an ice-pack to aid his damaged knee.

Mario Melchiot limped out with a sore knee but he will be fit next week and Izzet, who has been blighted by injuries, didn't materialise at all due to his calf complaint.

However, despite the recurring injury theme, Birmingham still have reasons to be cheerful after a scrappy, yet fully-deserved, victory over the worst team in the Premiership.

A classic, it wasn't. Nerves, the elements and a lack of confidence ensured that it was going to be a slog, but Birmingham proved that they have the moral fibre to succeed in pivotal fixtures.

Wigan, Portsmouth and Sunderland have all left St Andrew's empty-handed this year after fixtures Birmingham had to win.

With West Bromwich Albion looming on the horizon in a fortnight, the portents are good for Bruce's battle-weary troops.

Emile Heskey, without a goal in the Premiership since December 5, rose to the challenge and powered home a classic far-post header from an excellent Jermaine Pennant free-kick for Saturday's winner.

The stench of tension was tangible all afternoon, but that goal, six minutes before half-time, loosened the shackles and Birmingham were more purposeful until an anxious final ten minutes.

Pennant's set-pieces were excellent and still provided Birmingham's greatest source of hope along with the probing play of Jiri Jarosik.

The enigmatic Czech midfielder was his customary attacking threat with intelligent running and thunderbolt shot. However, he was happy to partake in the 'ugly' side of the game and tracked runners, tackled and defended stubbornly.

Nicky Butt's arrival for the injured Johnson after 25 minutes was greeted with a mixed reaction from the stands after his tête-á-tête with Bruce at West Ham.

Yet his commitment to the cause couldn't be questioned and his dogged tackling came to the fore as the tension became increasingly palpable.

David Dunn's 15-minute cameo in central midfield was impressive and one can only pray this isn't another false dawn for the affable Lancastrian.

Martin Latka showed he is coming to terms with the Premiership with an assured performance at centre-half while the return of Martin Taylor was another positive for the manager.

But it was the introduction of the livewire DJ Campbell for Sutton that was a big factor behind the hosts' energetic performance in the second stanza.

The 24-year-old is by no means the finished article and Bruce is adopting the right policy by carefully nurturing him along, but his presence stretched the visitors' back line and allowed others to flourish.

He still has raw edges and aspects of his game still need tidying up, but there is no disguising that Blues looked far more threatening with him.

However, that shouldn't mask the fact that Sunder-land are the worst Premiership team ever.

They still had to be beaten, of course, and Birmingham achieved what Albion couldn't do last month. If you thought this fixture was tense, wait until next week's trip to Middlesbrough.

The return of Matthew Upson is likely and Dunn's fitness will also lift sprits.

Heskey has scored his first goal for three months and the inclusion of either Mikael Forssell or Campbell at the expense of the injured Sutton will, on Saturday's evidence, improve Birmingham.

Providing, that is, they all come through a week of training unscathed. However, with Birmingham's fluid but constant injury-list, Bruce will be undertaking a roll- call on a daily basis. ..SUPL: