Premiership strugglers they may be, but Coventry demonstrated last night that they were still a class above their First Division near-neighbours as they secured a Coca-Cola Cup third-round place thanks to a characteristically smart free-kick from their captain, Gary McAllister.
The Scottish international gave his side a 2-1 aggregate win after 62 minutes with a shot which took a deflection after Barry Horne had brought down John Salako on the edge of the box.
But the visitors, whose increasing domination of the match ought to have been reflected by more goals, made life hard for themselves when Liam Daish, the former Birmingham player, was sent off 15 minutes from time.
Daish, who scored a late equaliser in last week's first leg at Highfield Road, was dismissed for a second bookable foul on Paul Furlong. He left the field complaining bitterly, but it was his colleagues who had most to grumble about as they were obliged to weather Birmingham's desperate, but wild final efforts.
The action in the Coventry penalty area grew increasingly frenzied as the referee played nearly five minutes of injury time. That the visitors survived was largely due to Dion Dublin who performed manfully as a stand- in centre-half.
Those last moments of desperation might have been avoided in the 88th minute when Coventry appeared sure of a second goal on the break. But, after Whelan's shot had been blocked on the line, Salako contrived to scoop the rebound over the bar from six yards out.
Salako, who hit the bar in the 64th minute, was picked out as one of Coventry's outstanding performers by their manager, Ron Atkinson.
Despite the loss at least the home supporters appeared to have heeded the dire warnings of the club's owner, David Sullivan, over their behaviour last Saturday.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Bennett; Edwards (Legg, 84), Bruce, Breen, Adlett; Devlin, Castle, Horne, Donowa (Bowen, 73); Furlong, Newell. Substitute not used: Sutton (gk).
Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Borrows, Daish, Burrows, Hall; Telfer, McAllister, Richardson, Salako; Whelan, Dublin. Substitutes not used: Shaw, Filan (gk), Jess.
Referee: P R Alcock (Redhill).