If Steve Bruce abdicated responsibility by directing his ire not at the culpable Lee Cattermole but towards Anthony Taylor, at least it appeared the errant Sunderland captain's team-mates were more inclined to know who to blame.
Bruce is likely to hear from the FA for his ill-advised post-match tirade at Taylor's justified sending-off of his captain, an attempt to defend the indefensible by turning attention to the Greater Manchester official's fast-tracking to the top flight less than four years after making it on to the Football League list.
He might be better employed attempting to bring into line the tearaway 22-year-old midfielder, who left Taylor little choice but to brandish a second yellow for a foul on Lee Bowyer shortly before the break, after an earlier caution for kicking the ball away.
Refreshingly, Darren Bent, who broke the deadlock with an early penalty after Stephen Carr's foul on Fraizer Campbell, was less willing to protect the perpetrator. The forward's sympathy was tinged with a caveat for the young tyro, a significant contributor to Sunderland leading the way with a record nine red cards last season.
"Lee was unlucky to get sent off, but it's something we need to clamp down on," Bent said. "When you go down to 10 men at this level, you make life hard for yourselves. If it's a yellow card for a tackle then you take it but, when you kick the ball away, you're asking for trouble. When you've been booked, you need to hold off a little."
Without their banished captain, the lead was doubled by Carr's headed own goal, but Sunderland's tendency from last season to capitulate late on in matches returned as the introduction of 6ft 7in substitute Nikola Zigic injected a note of panic hitherto undetected in a defence where the debutants Nedum Onuoha and Titus Bramble had excelled.
Scott Dann headed through the legs of the hesitant debutant goalkeeper Simon Mignolet with 13 minutes left, inducing the jitters to a sufficient degree to allow Liam Ridgewell to claim a deserved share of the spoils with a close-range equaliser from Seb Larsson's pin-point free-kick.
"Even though we had a good season last time, we struggled to score goals so to come back and score twice somewhere like this is bodes well," Dann said. "Zigic is going to be a real handful. He's a big lad and will be a great asset."
Sunderland 4-4-2: Mignolet; Onuoha, Mensah, Bramble, Richardson; Elmohamady (Waghorn, 90), Henderson, Cattermole, Malbranque (Riveros, 64); Bent (Welbeck, 84), Campbell. Substitutes not used Carson (gk), Bardsley, Da Silva, Zenden.
Booked Richardson, Bent. Sent off Cattermole, 43.
Birmingham City 4-4-2: Foster; Carr (Gardner, 65), Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, Fahey (McFadden, 46); Jerome, O'Connor (Zigic, 58). Substitutes not used Taylor (gk), Murphy, Madera, Parnaby.
Booked Carr, Gardner, Johnson
Referee A Taylor (Manchester) Attendance 38,390
Man of the match ZigicReuse content