Barnsley 1 Birmingham City 0
The ghost of Barnsley returned to haunt Birmingham City yesterday.
It's almost six years now since Barnsley came to St Andrew's, stunned Blues with a 4-0 win and shattered Trevor Francis's promotion ambitions.
Just how damaging this latest embarrassment proves depends on how Steve Bruce's side respond. But a holiday weekend that seemed set to launch Blues on an Easter parade to the Premiership has turned sour.
Long before yet another nightmare against one of the Championship's lesser lights had ended in an ugly brawl and Blues' ninth red card of the season, their large and expectant following had turned.
The 6,500 fans who took advantage of the board's generous offer of free coach travel to South Yorkshire had sung their hearts out and, had Andy Cole been in the starting line-up, it might have been a different story.
But Blues' inability to keep their cool in front of goal is starting to become more than just a passing blip. And, when Daniel Nardiello, who could count Cole among his heroes in the days when he was trying to make his way at Old Trafford, cashed in to fire the only goal of the game, the fans were forced to return home in angry silence.
At least Blues can say they are consistent in the way they keep slipping up against poorer teams and Bruce responded to Saturday's defeat against Burnley with a wholesale reconstruction.
Only goalkeeper Colin Doyle, skipper Damien Johnson, top scorer Gary McSheffrey and the two centre-halves remained in the same position. Mehdi Nafti and Nicklas Bendtner were back on the bench, while Sebastian Larsson and Mat Sadler found themselves out of the 16.
Bruno N'Gotty came in at right back, allowing Stephen Kelly to shuffle across to the left, while Fabrice Muamba was a straight replacement for Nafti in central midfield. Rowan Vine was pushed out to the wide right to allow DJ Campbell and Cameron Jerome to start together upfront.
They were the chosen pair for the cup wins at Sheffield United and Newcastle United but this was the fifth time Bruce had started with Campbell and Jerome together in a league game and he is yet to see it prove a winning combination.
After a scare in the very first minute when Doyle's smart save denied Martin Devaney, Blues at least looked more threatening.
Jerome was just off target before almost setting up Campbell with a fierce low cross and Muamba tested Nick Colgan. Vine also whipped in two venomous low balls, the second of which should have brought the opening goal when McSheffrey, allowed space by Campbell's clever dummy, took the wrong option and tried to play a return pass instead of shooting.
But Barnsley, still smarting from Saturday's 5-1 tanning at Ipswich, were bound to prove competitive and they were close to snatching the lead when, from Nardiello's cross, Doyle was forced into a brave save at point-blank range to keep out Devaney's header.
Roared on by their largest and loudest away following of the season, Blues came out of the blocks after the break visibly lifted.
Jerome was thwarted, Blues had two handball shouts turned down in the box and McSheffrey volleyed over. But, just as the efforts of the fans reached fever pitch, Barnsley silenced them.
Nardiello raced clear down the left, cut inside N'Gotty and the former Wolverhampon Wanderers Academy discovery's precise shot with his right instep went in off Doyle's left upright.
Blues had their chances to respond, Bendtner leaving the bench as Bruce went to a 4-3-3 formation which was more of a 3-4-3 late on, given how frequently Radhi Jaidi was timing his forward forays.
The woodwork was involved as Bendtner and Jaidi were denied in the same scramble before Campbell's scissor-kick deflected behind off Bobby Hassell. And, when Colgan dropped the ball from another McSheffrey corner, Blues were denied another penalty shout against Devaney.
Jaidi then put another header over and, from one final ball in the dying seconds, Bendtner's header was smothered.
That was Blues' last effort and it seemed their misery was complete. At the final whistle, it got even scruffier with red cards for Hassell and Blues substitute Neil Danns, with the prospect of more punishments to follow.
"I know a lot of managers say they don't see things, but I honestly didn't," said Bruce. "I'll have to wait until I've seen the video."
It's going to make painful viewing.
Scorer: Nardiello (52).
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Colgan; Hassell, Kay, Nyatanga, Eckersley (Heckingbottom, 36); Reid, Togwell, Howard, Devaney (McCann, 76); Ferenczi, Nardiello (Rajczi, 83). Substitutes: Lucas (gk), Jones.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Doyle; N'Gotty (Gray, 75), Jaidi, Taylor, Kelly; Vine (Bendtner, 58), Johnson (Danns, 71), Muamba, McSheffrey; Campbell, Jerome. Substitutes: Maik Taylor (gk), Nafti.
Referee: Mike Russell (Hertfordshire).
Booking: Barnsley — Togwell (foul).
Sending-off: Barnsley — Hassell (violent conduct); Blues — Danns (violent conduct).