Birmingham City 1 Bolton Wanderers 0

It was not much fun to watch, it was gut-wrenchingly tense and it was in doubt right until the final whistle.

But Jiri Jarosik's wonder strike last night allowed Birmingham City fans to dream the impossible dream - that their team might yet escape the Premiership drop.

That seemed unthinkable just a fortnight ago when, on the same ground, Blues suffered the biggest humiliation in their 100-year St Andrew's history.

It was expected after that 7-0 FA Cup demolition to Liverpool that manager Steve Bruce would pay with his job the following morning.

But there were no 'Bruce Out' chants, the Blues board stuck by their man and, last night, they got their reward.

After starting the revival with Saturday's point against Premiership champions Chelsea, Bruce's men kept it up with a well-timed victory that pulled themselves out of the bottom three for the first time in almost six months.

Blues were without a win in six games and they had not even managed a goal in their last four. In fact, given that Mikael Forssell had scored from the penalty spot, their last goal from open play had been Emile Heskey's winner against Sunderland five-anda-half weeks ago.

It was enough to warrant a siege mentality in the dressing room among the Blues players who opted to take vows of silence but top-scorer Jarosik's bolt from the blue, eight minutes from half-time, was enough to restore smiles to faces in what has been a campaign of constantly furrowed brows at St Andrew's.

Blues first slipped into this season's bottom three back in early October, on a nightmare weekend that also saw them lose at home to Aston Villa. Now, if they can keep this revival going at Wigan on Saturday afternoon, they could yet go to Villa Park for the return on Easter Sunday with a chance of dragging their neighbours into the relegation equation.

Last night's hard-fought win left them seven points adrift of Villa but, most importantly, it left them sneaking ahead of their two main rivals, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth.

If the end result was just what the club doctor ordered - apart from first-half injuries to Stephen Clemence and Nicky Butt - it made for pretty grim viewing.

This season's originally scheduled meeting between these two sides in early December was called off at an hour's notice due to thick fog.

And, after an opening half -hour of total tedium, most inside St Andrew's last night were rather hoping that another 'pea souper' would suddenly descend.

Neither manager had chosen to play with more than one striker up front and, sadly, the busiest men in the ground was Blues physiotherapist Neil McDiarmid, who had to attend to those early injuries to Clemence and Butt.

Action had been limited to scraps at either end, Stelios heading wide from El Hadji Diouf's cross, while Mikael Forssell, one of Blues' two early substitutes, fired just over the bar.

But those two forced substitutions were to prove to Blues' advantage. In replacing Butt, Bruce opted to bring on an extra striker and rely on just having four men in midfield. And it did not long for the two central components of Blues' rejigged engine room to click as Jarosik rescued the game with one of the goals of the season.

Damien Johnson cut in purposefully from the right before feeding Jarosik and, having skipped past JayJay Okocha with embarrassing ease, the Czech Republic international lashed home a 20-yard left-footer for his eighth goal of the season, with Blues' only on-target effort of the evening,

Within a minute, he might have had another as Emile Heskey's clever flick and Jarosik's own strength saw him gallop into the Bolton box but his left-foot effort flashed into the side netting.

The visitors nearly levelled on the stroke of half-time when Maik Taylor had to dive low to his left to save from Bolton skipper Kevin Nolan.

Clearly fired up after a few well-chosen words from their Black Country-born manager Sam Allardyce, Bolton started the second half brightly.

Stelios brought another save from Taylor but then Blues threatened themselves when Johnson's wicked cross brought a scrambled effort from Jussi Jaaskelainen to turn it behind for a corner.

Then, when Heskey was generously adjudged to have been felled on the edge of the box by substitute Nicky Hunt, Jermaine Pennant ballooned wide his free-kick.

Bolton then wasted their best chance when, from Okocha's free-kick wide on the right, Kevin Davies contrived a great headed flick-on, but Stelios prodded his far-post effort wide.

Forssell flashed a right-footer just wide of the target and there were plenty of frantic late moments in the Blues box but, thanks to plentiful supplies of sheer graft and true grit, they survived.

As to whether they will survive the drop itself, that's another matter. From a confidence point of view, this result will not do any harm.