The veteran goalkeeper Andy Goram answered an emergency with another demonstration of his enduring ability, but it was the man guarding the Crewe goal who was central to the most significant moments as Coventry extended Roland Nilsson's unbeaten run as manager to eight First Division games yesterday, rising to fourth place as a result.
The Nigerian Ademola Bankole rivals Fabien Barthez for unpredictable behaviour between the goalposts. He is as liable to draw gasps of horror from Crewe fans as bursts of applause and did both at Highfield Road.
Twice he pulled off excellent saves to deny Coventry a more emphatic victory margin but, given that it was his error that led to the only goal, he needed to redeem himself. With time and space to launch the ball upfield when Efe Sodje knocked a back pass towards him 28 minutes into the first half, Bankole instead drove it straight to the feet of Coventry's Moroccan midfielder, Youssef Safri.
Safri promptly darted into the penalty area and shaped to shoot but was tripped by Sodje and the referee, Tony Leake, correctly pointed to the spot. Lee Hughes converted the penalty for his third goal of the season.
Crewe's manager, Dario Gradi, did not hide his opinion of Bankole's antics. "When he concentrates on keeping the ball out of the net he is great but when he starts acting the idiot with the referee and crowd he can be a nuisance," Gradi said. "He had been involved in a bit of nonsense with Lee Hughes and there was one moment I found myself thinking: 'What a prat'."
Bankole also flapped at crosses more than once, but two fine second-half saves denied Hughes further joy.
Goram did everything required of him after Coventry's first-choice goalkeeper, Magnus Hedman, withdrew because of a muscular spasm in his chest. This was put down to his having slept in an awkward position, which will go down as one of the season's more bizarre injuries.
The 37-year-old former Rangers goalkeeper, on a month-to-month contract with Coventry but seeking a more permament position, beat away a close-range effort from Rob Hulse at the end of Crewe's best first-half move and dived full length to keep out a rising shot from Kenny Lunt in the second.
Goal: Hughes pen (29) 1-0.
Coventry City (4-4-2): Goram; Shaw, Konjic, Breen, Hall; Thompson, Carsley, Safri, Chippo; Bothroyd (Delorge, 64), Hughes. Substitutes not used: Edworthy, Quinn, Martinez, Montgomery (gk).
Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): Bankole; Foster, Sodje, Walton, Smith; Lunt, Brammer, Sorvel, Jack (Rix, 86); Ashton, Hulse. Substitutes not used: Wright, Tait, Ince (gk), Thomas.
Referee: A Leake (Lancashire).
Bookings: Coventry: Shaw, Safri.
Attendance: 15,788.Reuse content