Wolverhampton Wanderers, seven points ahead of Birmingham City in the Championship, held sway over them in this third-round tie and secured a home meeting with Middlesbrough on Saturday week.
Goals by their stand-in strikers Andy Keogh and Sam Vokes, firsts for both in over three months, saw Wolves through an assignment that became troublesome only in the last half-hour.
But they were helped by Howard Webb, the referee who ruled St Andrews unplayable 11 days ago. He rejected strong Birmingham penalty appeals in the first half and re-routed Radhi Jaidi's pass into Keogh's path in the build-up to Wolves' second goal.
"It was a great pass by Howard and just one of those nights," smiled Birmingham's manager Alex McLeish. "He's a superb referee but I believe he got it wrong with the penalty. It was a bad challenge."
Both sides were under strength, with Kevin Phillips, Seb Larsson and James McFadden resting injuries and Wolves holding back Chris Iwelumo and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake – scorers of more than 30 goals between them.
Birmingham's flurry of January signings came too late for this game, although Robin Shroot, captured from non-League football, made his debut.
Much of the first half was played amid reduced visibility, caused by a fire outside the stadium. What the smoke couldn't do was mask Wolves' superiority and they, in a different sense, could have been out of sight.
Early on the visitor's George Friend was denied by a combination of Maik Taylor and a defender when looking likely to mark his second start with a goal, then David Edwards sent a 30-yarder dipping over. The lead the Championship leaders took in the 38th minute wasn't unexpected. Keogh made one of several dangerous runs in the middle and was free to drive in right-footed off Taylor's legs from Michael Kightly's clever through ball.
With Marcus Bent down nursing both an ankle injury and a grievance when denied a penalty for Richard Stearman's scything challenge, Wolves immediately broke back only for Vokes and Kightly to be denied on the line by Franck Queudrue and Liam Ridgewell.
Bent didn't reappear and, after Taylor had scrambled behind Keogh's volley, Birmingham's problems intensified, Webb inadvertently setting Wolves moving from midfield, and Keogh and Kightly taking advantage by setting up Vokes for a close-range finish.
The dissenting voices among the home support were at least quelled by Birmingham's spirited response. Lee Carsley drew a diving fingertip save from Wayne Hennessey before Cameron Jerome turned brilliantly to slam against the bar from outside the area and Shroot, clean through, was denied by the keeper's legs.
"I thought it was a penalty but I'm very pleased with the performance," said Wolves' manager Mick McCarthy. "We deserved to win."
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Parnaby, Jaidi, Ridgewell, Queudrue; Agustien (Kelly, 82), Carsley, Quashie, Shroot; Jerome, Bent (Johnson, h-t). Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), Martin Taylor, Sammons, McPike.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hennessey; Edwards, Stearman, Collins, Ward; Kightly (Ebanks-Blake, 82), Henry, Jones, Friend; Vokes (Iwelumo, 78), Keogh. Substitutes not used: Ikeme (gk), Jarvis, Shackell, Potter, Hill.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).Reuse content