TOTTENHAM 2 BIRMINGHAM CITY 0
As any Birmingham City fan will never tire of telling you this season, it never rains but it pours!
If Steve Bruce had hoped for a little light relief from the battering his Blues team have taken from Lady Luck this season, he certainly did not find it on a cold, wet Boxing Day in north London.
Blues' reshaped side produced perhaps their most competitive performance of the season yet were unwrapped in the end by two Christmas 'presents', from referee Phil Dowd to all at White Hart Lane.
As Bruce himself wryly observed, a classic case of hitting a man when he's down.
But the Blues boss can at least go into tomorrow night's second meeting in nine days with his former club Manchester United in better heart.
He can feel comforted that, but for two inconsistent pieces of officiating, Blues would have returned north with at least a point. Although Blues face the daunting task of United, then Chelsea, followed by their 'easy one' against Wigan Athletic next Monday, they certainly did not play like a team who will be relegated.
Sure, they've got the luck of a relegation team. The finishing ability is indicated by a measly haul of 11 goals in 17 matches. But at least the spirit is still willing!
For the second game running, Bruce made five changes, including almost an entire stripping-out of his midfield.
Old boys Kenny Cunningham and Stan Lazaridis returned at right-back and left-back respectively. Along with recalls for Julian Gray and Neil Kilkenny, there was also a fateful comeback ahead of schedule for one of Bruce's two hamstring casualties, the luckless Muzzy Izzet.
The combined effect was a hard-working engine room that not only nullified the Premiership's third most potent attacking threat but carved out enough moments of danger themselves.
After seven goals leaked in two matches, the fact that Spurs' greatest first-half threat came only as the result of an error by Matthew Upson was something from which Blues could take further solace.
Upson's under-hit back pass appeared to have let in Aaron Lennon only for the England centre-half to show something more like international class to recover with a well-timed tackle. Late on in the first half, Maik Taylor was well-positioned to block a left-foot volley from home skipper Ledley King. That apart, Blues were doing the job. They could have led with sharper finishing.
Jiri Jarosik, his touch honed by goals in the previous two matches, almost got in at the near post, only to be denied by England keeper Paul Robinson. But Emile Heskey did his hopes of an international recall no good when he headed Jarosik's cross wide. It would have been a completely different story had Gray not missed the game's best chance straight after the restart. Set up by Jarosik, Gray was denied by the alert Robinson.
From the resulting Kilkenny corner, Upson's goal-bound header was deflected to safety by Mido. Robinson's reflexes resulted in an instinctive one-handed save preventing Heskey's volleyed cross doing more damage. But all these promising signs of snatching an away point did not fool the more cynical among the travelling faithful.
Blues fans know that their team's fortunes this season are governed by the law of Sod, that 'What can go wrong will go wrong'. Seven nightmare second-half minutes took this game from them with a wicked twist.
First came that Spurs penalty, given for Upson's challenge on Keane a cruel decision best summed up by the lack of initial crowd reaction, always a good indicator.
Keane composed himself to send Taylor the wrong way from the spot for the latest of his many, many strikes against West Midland sides. Then came an equally frustrating moment as Blues were reduced to ten men.
Izzet, already harshly cautioned for a first-half foul on Keane, went down in the Spurs' penalty area under challenge from Michael Dawson.
Rather than the penalty he might have hoped for, he earned another yellow card for an alleged dive. Off he went.
If both incidents were tough on Blues, the moment that brought an eleventh league defeat in 17 was more of their own making. Edgar Davids conceded a free kick five yards outside his own penalty area and substitute David Dunn's effort caught the top of the wall. Dunn was slow to react to the rebound and Jermaine Jenas snaked out a leg to spread the ball wide. Caught on the counter-attack, despite having half the pitch to travel, Jermain Defoe thought of nothing other than going for goal.
He took on Cunningham, who had covered across to the left and appeared to have kept a wise old head by not steaming in with a challenge. But he left only one hole and the England striker found it, exploding a venomous right-foot drive into Taylor's top left corner.