Whatever the shortfall in quality, the Championship promotion race is its usual exciting self, even for the minor placings. In a game that finally came to life from the ultimate in Sunday lunchtime serenity, under-strength Birmingham City returned to sixth place despite the concession of an equaliser 12 minutes from time.
But the fact they now have one win in eight matches, while a Cardiff City side who are level on points with them but two rungs lower have managed two in 13, underlines a shared stumble towards the finishing line.
There are, of course, mitigating circumstances. Between them, these clubs have played exactly 100 games this season and it showed. Whether through fatigue, nervousness at the proximity to journey's end or simply an inability to master a lively pitch, the first half was dire.
Thankfully, the second was passable. Marlon King provided a long overdue talking point with his first Birmingham penalty miss – David Marshall dived low to his right to save after Don Cowie had felled Jordon Mutch – but the home side's leading scorer seemed to be reprieved 13 minutes later.
Birmingham broke quickly from a Cardiff corner, Chris Burke outpacing Kevin McNaughton, spotting King and Erik Huseklepp two-on-one in the middle and squaring for the latter to tuck away.
It was the on-loan Portsmouth forward's second goal in six games and another step towards possible "Feed the Huse and he will score" status.
Cardiff, though, needed only nine minutes to draw level, deservedly: Peter Whittingham cleverly picked out Mark Hudson with a diagonal ball and the captain produced an accomplished centre-half's first-time finish with his right foot.
"Their goal is the only chance they had in 95 minutes," Hughton said. "I was disappointed with the way we conceded. We had to play two centre-halves at full-back but we were solid."
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Myhill; Ibañez (Gomis, 73), Caldwell, Davies, Ramage; Burke , N'Daw, Elliott, Mutch; Huseklepp (Townsend, 70), King. Substitutes not used Doyle (gk), Zigic, Redmond.
Cardiff City (4-4-1-1): Marshall; McNaughton , Hudson , Turner, Taylor; Cowie (Gestede, 73), Lawrence, McPhail (Miller, 84 ), Whittingham ; Gunnarsson; Mason . Substitutes not used Heaton (gk), Earnshaw, Blake.
Referee A D'Urso (Billericay).Reuse content