Birmingham City 0 Chelsea 0

So impressive was Olivier Tebily's performance here that supporters of Birmingham City could be seen frantically checking their watches to ensure the midday deadline for April Fool's Day gags had passed.

Blues' oft-lampooned defender was undoubtedly the catalyst for their ubiquitous performance and if this point proves decisive to clinch their Premiership status come May 7, Steve Bruce will be forever indebted to this affable brute of a man.

With Mario Melchiot unavailable due to injury, Bruce recalled Tebily for his first Premiership start since the debacle at Manchester City on December 17. Then, he was dragged off after 23 minutes as Birmingham crumbled to an embarrassing 4-1 defeat and the future looked bleak for the 30-year-old.

However, injuries forced Bruce's hand and Tebily stepped up to the plate to galvanise the team and crowd in to an uplifting performance.

All Birmingham supporters possess their own 'Tebily' moment and he is affectionately remembered for launching into a tackle at the New Den without wearing a boot in their play-off semi-final triumph in 2002.

His commitment has never been in question and his fearless tackling can leave teammates and supporters wincing in unison.

However, his capricious nature usually results in fireworks and his sliced own-goal against Liverpool was a classic example.

But Tebily is a benign character who isn't prone to throwing Graeme Le Saux style hissy fits if he doesn't get his own way.

His steely resolve was evident on Saturday where the only April Fools were the scribes and supporters who questioned his selection. His performance was immense.

Not only did he deliver arguably his most disciplined defensive performance in a royal blue shirt, but was also the catalyst for Blues' confident approach.

His surging runs and powerful tackles invigorated tired and weary home supporters and a stunning left-foot drive that tested Chelsea goal-keeper Petr Cech to the maximum brought the house down.

Quite apart from his attacking prowess, he also scared Damien Duff and Arjen Robben into submission with sensible defending. But it would be foolhardy to suggest this was just a one-man show.

Bruce pulled another rabbit from the hat with his selection of Mat Sadler. It was the 21-year-old's first Premiership start since he marked David Beckham at Old Trafford in 2002.

A four-year hiatus isn't ideal preparation before facing up to the trickery of Joe Cole, Duff and Robben but the Sheldon-born defender was equal to the task.

He was composed defensively and delivered a teasing cross that presented Emile Heskey with a golden opportunity to break the deadlock.

Martin Taylor also proved he has considerable shoulders, as he negated the effect of Didier Drogba.

The voluminous centre-half felt the brunt of their damaging defeat against Liverpool more than most, as Bruce hauled him off at half-time and removed him from the 16 for the subsequent trip to Old Trafford.

However, this was a cathartic experience for him.

Everywhere you turned the team was littered with play-ers surpassing their recent levels of performance quite considerably.

Nicky Butt, Stephen Clemence and Damien Johnson matched Chelsea's much-vaunted trio in central midfield and Butt, in particular, is becoming an integral part of Bruce's survival plans.

After a decade of being feted at Old Trafford, it must have been a chastening experience to find himself the target of some supporters' ire this season. Yet his pragmatic and stubborn approach has restored his confidence and won over any critics in the process.

But there is still a nagging doubt over whether or not this team will be able to score enough goals to survive.

Defensive solidity was vastly improved and the impending return of Matthew Upson with the next fortnight will stabilise them still further.

Muzzy Izzet, Jiri Jarosik and David Dunn should add creativity, but someone is going to have to start scoring if they are to survive.

Portsmouth's win at Fulham - their third in a row - has really put the cat among the pigeons and exacerbated the importance of tomorrow night's fixture with Bolton.

A point against Chelsea is extremely valuable, but it needs to be consolidated with a positive result against Bolton.

The Lancashire side's direct brand of football means it won't be one for the purist to attend but Birmingham fans won't care one iota if they can procure three points.

Saturday's clash with Chelsea wasn't awash with flowing football. Yet not one home supporter left with anything but a smile on their face after a totally committed display.

Seven more displays of this ilk might not be enough to secure their Premiership status; what it will do, however, is proffer a shaft of light where previously it was all gloom.