There can be few better ways for a team to restore wounded pride than by winning away at the leaders of their division, and Birmingham City put everything they had into achieving exactly that yesterday. Humiliated 5-0 in front of their own fans by Barnsley in their previous match, they pulled 10 men behind the ball for most of this match and battled to hang on to a lead given them by Chris Burke in the 26th minute, inflicting a first home defeat of the season on Brighton.
"We needed a reaction and we got it," Lee Clark, the Birmingham manager, said. "If we had felt sorry for ourselves, Brighton have enough quality to have given us a 5-0 hiding as well."
It proved the received football wisdom that any team in this season's Championship can beat any other on their day, and luckily for Brighton, similarly unlikely results elsewhere on a day of defeats and draws for fancied teams kept them at the top on goal difference.
Birmingham packed the midfield to stifle Brighton's passing game, which worked up to a point, but with Will Buckley taking on both full- backs the home side still looked threatening until the ball reached the City penalty area, where the absence of Brighton's injured striker Craig Mackail-Smith was keenly felt. No such problems for Birmingham, who went ahead when Burke met Gordon Greer's headed clearance 22 yards out and although Tomasz Kuszczak got a hand to his thunderous first-time shot, he had no chance of keeping it out.
The second half began 15 minutes late after a floodlight failure, and Brighton seemed to benefit more from the extended break, but Birmingham stood firm.
"Of course it hurts and we're a bit down, but we did everything possible," Gustavo Poyet, the Brighton manager, said. "You have to give credit to them, they defended well after the result they had last week."
Brighton (4-1-2-3): Kuszczak; Calderon, Greer, El-Abd (Lopez, 60), Bridge; Bridcutt; Hammond, Dicker; Buckley (Lua Lua, 71), Dobbie, Barnes.
Birmingham (4-5-1): Butland; Packwood (Mullins, 81), Davies, Caldwell, Robinson; Burke, Spector, Elliott, Fahey, Lovenkrands (Redmond, 69); Lita (King, 87).
Referee Oliver Langford.