Hull City 2 Birmingham City 0
Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce was not sure how to look at his luck. He had just witnessed his side produce one of their most lacklustre performances of the season but the other results – Derby County losing for the second time in four days and West Bromwich Albion drawing with Leicester City – meant that Blues are still in with a chance of returning to the top of the Championship tomorrow night.
A victory over bottom club Leeds United at St Andrew's, a game in hand which was postponed last month when Blues' new pitch failed to settle in bad weather, would take them back to the summit.
If anyone needed proof that anything is possible in this division, they only needed to be at the KC Stadium. Blues were deservedly beaten by a Hull side clearly looking to make amends for some recent poor form.
It cast a doubt over whether Bruce's men have the staying power to last the distance in a season where nothing less than promotion will do for the board of directors.
Yet if his players respond in the way he wants them to, then they will be sitting pretty by tomorrow night.
The trouble is, Blues do not look like a side capable of scoring too many goals at the moment. Indeed, Leeds could prove to be the worst kind of opponents.
Their result against Hull only backed up Bruce's statistics that Blues struggle against the so-called lower sides in the Championship.
It is almost as if they have to be involved in a match with another promotion rival for their game to reach the required standard.
There are plenty of those sort of fixtures coming up, but the next date in their diary sees them needing to beat the bottom club to prevent more 'crisis' talk rearing its ugly head again.
But Bruce may need to do more than simply ask for a response. If the truth be known, only Stephen Clemence's tireless work in midfield and some excellent saves from Colin Doyle prevented Blues from folding completely.
Too many players were below par and even the appearance of Nicklas Bendtner in the second half, after he was dropped by Bruce, could not spark Birmingham into action.
The statistics will say that Blues only managed one shot on target, a spectacular long-range effort from Gary McSheffrey.
That in itself is worrying, as Hull are the sort of team that Blues must beat at this stage of the season.
Now is when the real contenders show their hand and while Albion and Sunderland are running into form, Blues joined Derby for a spot of promotion jitters.
What made this defeat worse was the fact that they were made to look second-best by Dean Windass, a journeyman striker on loan at Hull and preparing for his 38th birthday celebrations on April 1 – it was fitting, then, that he made Blues look foolish with two goals which could easily have turned into a hat-trick.
That was not all. Ray Parlour is another experienced head in the Hull side and he combined with Windass early on to expose Birmingham's static defence.
Bruce will hope this was a mere off-day for a back four that had been looking better since Matt Upson's controversial move to West Ham. But it was a display that drew long faces from everyone connected with Blues.
As if being shown up by Windass was not enough, Birmingham made it tougher for themselves when Radhi Jaidi was sent off for bringing down Stuart Elliot who had left the Blues defender flat-footed.
Jaidi was shown a straight red card by referee Colin Webster, allowing Hull to underline their dominance.
Windass's second goal came from the penalty spot after Martin Taylor had brought down former Blues striker Nicky Forster in the area.
After that, Windass attacked at will and only Doyle stopped him from completing a memorable hat-trick.
Birmingham simply laboured all afternoon. They were treading water – literally – from the start when a torrential rainstorm blew in off the River Humber.
Perhaps if an audacious volley from McSheffrey had not been tipped over by former Aston Villa goalkeeper Boaz Myhill, it might have been a different story.
After Jaidi had departed, Bruce tried various combinations while still looking to play two men up front but this was meat and drink to Hull, whose three-man attack never gave Blues a moment's rest.
If Birmingham's draw against Sunderland had felt more like a victory last week, then this defeat was doubly hard to take.
But the way the promotion-chasers are starting to bunch together, this is a race that looks set to go right to the final day of the season. If Blues are to be part of that, then they need to get their act together fast.
After Leeds, they face Cardiff City and Derby in a six-day period that could make a big difference to the final outcome of Bruce's season – and the derby with Albion is three weeks away.
Certainly, Bruce is not a man to let other teams decide his side's destiny. He did not mention Saturday's other results after the game, preferring to concentrate on what his side did – or did not do.
Scorer: Windass (10, 56 pen)
HULL CITY (4-3-3): Myhill, Ricketts, Coles, Turner, Delaney, Ashbee, Parlour (Welsh 81), Livermore (Marney 89), Forster, Windass (Parkin 90), Elliott. Subs: Duke, Doyle
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Doyle, N'Gotty, Jaidi, Taylor, Sadler, Larsson (Bendtner 46) Clemence, Danns, McSheffrey, Jerome (Vine 65), Campbell (Kelly 39). Subs: Maik Taylor, Nafti.
Referee: Colin Webster (Tyne & Wear)
Booking: Birmingham - Danns (foul)
Sending-off: Birmingham - Jaidi (professional foul)