Birmingham City 4 Blackburn Rovers 1

The day started with hope and optimism but it fizzled out into another dark day for Birmingham City Football Club and even ended in complete and utter chaos.

Despite one of their biggest victories of the season, Blues were finally relegated from the top flight for the second time in three seasons.

The St Andrew's faithful had initially listened to manager Alex McLeish's rallying call for support, but they finished the afternoon by invading the pitch at the final whistle to demand the resignation of the club's board of directors, then vandalised one set of the goalposts for good measure.

McLeish had been repeating his mantra that everyone had to believe his side would survive for several weeks but even the most optimistic of supporters must have felt that there was only a slim chance of avoiding the drop.

After defeat at relegation rivals Fulham last weekend, their fate was out of their hands. Blues had to surpass the results of the Cottagers at Portsmouth and Reading at relegated Derby County if the dream was to come true and while the players held up their side of the bargain, courtesy of a brace of goals from Cameron Jerome and strikes from two unlikely heroes in left back David Murphy and midfielder Fabrice Muamba, the result proved to be immaterial.

There was no question who the Blues fans held accountable for their brief stay back in the Barclays Premier League and the 'sack the board' chants began in the first half, admittedly with little conviction. But as the day developed and it became apparent that all hope was lost, the chant grew to become a crescendo and coowner David Sullivan, in particular, was singled out. However, that protest crossed a line at the final whistle when Sullivan's son was left in tears by the ferocity of the abuse.

In truth, the afternoon did not contain the plot twists that previous Survival Sundays had

featured and at no stage were Blues ever safe. As soon as Reading took the lead at Pride Park, City were left clutching at straws.

The afternoon hadn't started in particularly good fashion. For a game they simply had to win, the worst thing that could have happened was to lose star striker James McFadden in the warm-up but, when the Scotland international limped off the field, the omens looked bad.

It got worse when it became apparent that Jerome, who was to take the place of McFadden's stand-in, Mauro Zarate, on the bench, was no longer in the ground. Jerome had left to pick up his family from New Street Station and raced back to the stadium when the Blues backroom staff called him. It was to be an eventful start to what would prove to be an interesting afternoon for the big striker.

Aided by free clappers that were handed out to every supporter, the Blues fans were in fantastic voice and the volume rose even higher when the shaven-headed Zarate, one of several players likely to have played his last game for the club,

almost gave the hosts a dream start when he fizzed a shot inches wide of goal after playing a one-two with Olivier Kapo.

But Birmingham have only kept three clean sheets all season, so it was never going to be a comfortable afternoon for Blues and Maik Taylor was soon called upon to make the first of several fine saves to deny Roque Santa Cruz.

After 15 minutes, the wind was taken out of Blues' sales and the cause of the deflation wasn't anything to do with events at St Andrew's. News filtered through that Reading had taken the lead at Derby, but Birmingham still needed to give themselves an opportunity should Derby grab an unlikely equaliser.

Kapo should have done better with a weak header from a Sebastian Larsson cross in the 28th minute but, three minutes later, St Andrew's erupted when Murphy ventured forward and unleashed a speculative shot that Brad Freidel made a complete hash of in the Rovers goal. Blues were in front but still hoping for favours.

A major symptom of their struggles this season has been their chronic inability to hang onto a lead and that frailty was evident again at the start of the second half when Damien Johnson gave the ball away in midfield.

Johann Vogel played in former Wolver-hampton Wanders and West Bromwich Albion striker Jason Roberts, who forced two great saves out of Taylor from point-blank range before Santa Cruz teed up Morten Gamst Pedersen to fire home the equaliser from close range.

Worse was to follow as word spread around the ground that Reading were now 2-0 ahead at Pride Park. Safety had been a small possibility but now it was quickly becoming an impossibility. The dissatisfaction in the stands began to grow.

To McLeish's team's credit, they fought admirably to recover and Jerome, who replaced the luckless Forssell, should have put Blues back in front on 72 minutes when Murphy was released by Zarate and squared the ball to an unmarked Jerome three yards out and with the goal at his mercy, but somehow he fired over the bar.

It was a shocking miss. However, he redeemed himself a minute later when he slotted home a half-volley on the turn after Larsson

had picked Jerome out inside the area and, two minutes from time, he beat the off-side trap to slip the ball beneath Freidel for Blues' third.

There was still time for Muamba to head home his second goal of the season from a Mehdi Nafti cross but there was very little to celebrate.

As the final whistle blew, Blues were condemned to another season in the Championship and a summer of turmoil now awaits.

Scorers: Murphy (31) 1-0, Pedersen (49) 1-1, Jerome (73) 2-1 and (89) 3-1, Muamba (90) 4-1.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Taylor; Murphy; Kelly; Jaidi; Ridgewell; Muamba; Larsson; Johnson (Nafti 73); Kapo (McSheffrey 87); Forssell (Jerome 69); Zarate. Subs: Doyle; Parnaby.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Friedel; Warnock (McCarthy 81); Samba; Nelson; Emerton; Vogel (Dunn 67); Santa Cruz; Bentley; Pedersen (Tugay 67); Reid; Roberts. Subs: Brown; Khizanishvili.
Referee: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire)
Attendance: 26,668
Bookings: Blues - Johnson, Ridgewell (fouls), Larsson (dissent); Blackburn - Roberts (dissent), Santa Cruz (ungentlemanly conduct)