Never, in 23 games in four years, had Newcastle lost the League game that followed Sir Bobby Robson taking them on a European outing. But never can a defeat have been as debilitating as their Champions' League exiton Wednesday.
And only rarely, possibly even never, can they have come up against a player as inspired and irrepressible as David Dunn, the stubbly-faced impresario who stage-managed all of Birmingham's best moves. He made the decisive penalty with a devastating pass, missed the kick and netted the rebound.
''That's why I paid all that money for him,'' said his manager Steve Bruce. "He has something different that will unlock a defence, but it wasn't just about him. Our work rate and application were terrific and we showed we could play a bit.'' Newcastle were a shadow of their once free-flowing, thrilling selves. They were ragged and wretched. A third home defeat in a week leaves them third bottom.
"It has been very traumatic,'' said Robson. "I don't think I've ever lost three consecutive games at home, let alone within a week.
"We are in a dogfight and only fighting the dog will get us through. We will not give it up. We are a big club. We are in trouble. We will stick together. We will row together. We are only 10 days into the season, not 10 months.'' Robson responded to Wednesday's defeat with a radical reshaping, Gary Speed dropping to left-back and midfield accommodating Hugo Viana and Nolberto Solano, but not Lee Bowyer.
But nothing could knock Birmingham's composure - not even when Robbie Savage received a wildly swinging elbow to the face after 60 seconds. He collapsed, and after two minutes of treatment, staggered groggily from the pitch. Referee Matt Messias was unable to look - for it had been his own elbow, swinging to indicate the direction of the game's first free kick, that had poleaxed the player.
Unruffled, Birmingham were assured from Jamie Clapham at the back through Damien Johnson, Steve Clemence and the recovered Savage. Matthew Upson shackled Shearer and so Newcastle were scoreless; Dunn flitted around and behind the lone striker Stern John, and so Birmingham were the likeliest to score.
Twice in the first half, Dunn put John into scoring positions; 14 minutes into the second, he timed his pass to Johnson to perfection to split Newcastle's defence. The rent was so large that Speed could only catch the Irishman's heels and even St James' partisan crowd greeted the penalty award with little protest.
Shay Given did save Dunn's kick low to his right but he left the rebound for the £5.5 million player to score.
Even a triple substitution could not remedy the situation - and Bowyer's swap for the popular Solano was greeted with derision. Bowyer was immediately involved in his side's most incisive moment, but it was Birmingham who still carried the greatest threat as Stan Lazaridis and Dunn - naturally - broke clear.
Newcastle United 0 Birmingham City 1
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 52,006Reuse content