Birmingham City 0 Middlesbrough 3
It is a cruel irony that having built his playing reputation as an uncompromising centre-half that Steve Bruce's current professional endeavours should be hindered by the sort of defensive frailties he prided himself on eradicating.
Yet Bruce, for nine years the rock on which Manchester United founded a dynasty, is now in charge of a team who are giving goals away with alarming ease.
To such an extent, in fact, that in last night's programme notes he felt compelled to censure his men for their failure to master 'the basics' in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Manchester City.
A combination of individual errors and City's attackers, he admitted, had caused his backline too many problems and things needed to change.
Unfortunately after allowing Mark Viduka to score twice and gifting Franck Queudrue space to ghost in for a simple far-post tap in, nothing had and Birmingham are still looking for their first win of the new Premiership campaign.
Bruce was clearly so concerned by what he saw against Stuart Pearce's men to deploy Olivier Tebily just in front of his creaking defence as some form of cover.
It didn't work. The former Celtic man, a centre-back in his day job, only seemed to confuse his team-mates as Birmingham's cautious lineup conceded the advantage to the visitors and invited them to come forward.
No one did so with more purpose than Viduka, though it has to be said that his cause was greatly aided by a series of individual mistakes.
Blues' nerves showed as early as the 11th minute when central pairing Matt Upson and Kenny Cunningham lost Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and allowed him to latch on to Queudrue's hopeful punt forward.
With the angle worsening with each revolution of the ball the Dutchman hooked a vicious shot across the face of Maik Taylor's goal.
Three minutes later they were not so lucky as Tebily and Stan Lazaridis were both sucked to the same breakdown and Michael Reiziger released Jamie Morrison into the space vacated by the Australian.
The young winger coolly picked out Viduka who slid in his first goal in eight months with a minimum of fuss. The resulting celebration was a stark contrast to the composure of its execution.
He could have made it 2-0 within five minutes after a calamitous error by Taylor who thumped a regulation clearance straight at the striker.
The ball dropped from the night sky and with one assured touch the Viduka advanced on the City goal. He was only prevented from doubling the Boro lead by a miraculous last-ditch intervention from Upson.
The warning did little to ignite the hosts. Debutant Jiri Jarosik flitted anonymously around the fringes of the action and Pandiani, the sole striker, got very little joy out of his exchanges with former Aston Villa defenders Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu.
All the Uruguayan's team had to show for their efforts were two penalty appeals, one fanciful, when Jarosik rolled Ehiogu and flung himself to the turf outside the area, the other contentious when referee Phil Dowd adjudged that Tebily had impeded Ray Parlour and not vice versa.
That was with two minutes to go in the half and there was still time for one remaining sloppy rearguard action.
Cunningham dallied too long close to the right corner flag meaning his clearance to touch lacked distance. That enabled Queudrue to roll a throw-in to Viduka on the touchline.
With a single mesmerising juggle he created space for himself infield and lashed a half volley across Taylor and into the far corner of the home net. It was a deadly finish and sentenced Bruce's men to a chorus of boos when they left the field.
Birmingham reorganised at the break, a tacit admission by Bruce that his original tactics had not worked, and Tebily and Stephen Clemence made way for Mikael Forssell and Muzzy Izzet.
The pattern changed slightly but not sufficiently to change the result. Blues at least created some form of pressure on the visitors' goal and perhaps Nicky Butt should have directed Mario Melchiot's 73rd minute centre at goal instead of over it.
Jermaine Pennant struck the joint of post and bar with a curling free-kick three minutes later but the only tangible reward belonged to the Teesiders.
With 19 minutes left Stewart Downing lifted a placekick to City's back post where Queudrue stabbed in from close range - with not a defender in sight, it should be said.
There is little consolation for Blues other, perhaps, than the fact that if it's defensive problems they have got, they Bruce is the man to sort them out.