Coventry manager Mark Robins wrote off his side’s Sky Bet Championship play-off hopes after their 3-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Birmingham.

An own goal by Bobby Thomas in the 12th minute and strikes from Ivan Sunjic and Jay Stansfield condemned the visitors to a third loss in four games.

Coupled with Norwich’s 1-0 win at Preston, it left the Sky Blues in eighth place, eight points adrift of the top six with four games left.

They have an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United next weekend and next play in the Championship on April 24 when they host Hull.

“We had to pick points up in three out of the four games we have lost and you can’t do that if you are realistically challenging, so it’s massively disappointing,” said Robins.

“We have given ourselves a mountain to climb. We could be 12 points adrift (of the top six) by the time we next play (in the league) and Norwich are too good.

“We didn’t start at all. Initially we had a couple of shots dragged wide, but they were first to the ball in every challenge. Every first contact they seemed to win.

“It looked like a lethargic performance and people made poor choices and it cost us three goals.

“They took the lead from an own goal where we didn’t get close enough to the attacker (Keshi Anderson), then for the second one, (goalkeeper) Brad Collins was unsighted.

“For the third goal we got dragged all over the place because we weren’t talking and that smacks of fatigue.”

The victory was Birmingham’s biggest win since October – and only their second in 11 games – and it moved them out of the relegation zone after Bristol City denied Huddersfield victory at the death.

Blues led when Anderson’s cross hit Thomas and deflected in at the near post.

Sunjic doubled the hosts’ lead with a rasping low drive that caught Collins flat-footed after a corner and Stansfield made it 3-0 when he clipped the ball past Collins following a superb diagonal run behind the defence which was spotted by Tyler Roberts on the left.

The closest Coventry came to scoring came in the 20th minute when Haji Wright’s lob hit the bar after keeper John Ruddy headed away a clearance.

Birmingham interim manager Gary Rowett challenged his side to repeat the performance for the next three games to avoid relegation.

“That was a much better performance and it had a lot more of what we expect and, lo and behold, you get your rewards,” he said.

“You might not find yourself solid defensively, but you find yourself scoring and creating chances.

“Some of the senior lads held the others to account in midweek (after a 1-0 home defeat to Cardiff) and everyone has taken that on board, which is what should happen. I thought we showed it.

“Now we’ve got to replicate that in the last three games.”

Rowett also praised the positive impact of the 26,811 crowd.

“It’s been no coincidence we’ve had five full houses this season and won all five games,” he added.

“If that doesn’t show the power of our fan base, nothing will. They were brilliant – the atmosphere was incredible.

“It was nice to reward that loyalty with a performance that had a similar edge.”

Birmingham gave their Sky Bet Championship survival hopes a huge boost with a 3-0 home win over Coventry which put a major dent in their visitors’ play-off hopes.

An own goal by Bobby Thomas in the 12th minute opened the scoring, Ivan Sunjic made it two three minutes before half-time and Jay Stansfield killed the contest with his 13th of the season.

The result was Blues’ biggest win since October – and only their second success in 11 – and moved them out of the relegation zone after Bristol City denied struggling Huddersfield with a last-gasp leveller.

Coventry’s third defeat in four left the FA Cup semi-finalists six points adrift of the top six with four games to go ahead of their big date at Wembley against Manchester United next weekend.

The Sky Blues threatened first with a firm, low angled drive from Milan van Ewijk that was deflected just wide.

Blues countered with a stabbed effort from Tyler Roberts and then a shot from Koji Miyoshi that brushed the side-netting.

And they soon got their noses in front.

Lee Buchanan’s throw-in on the left was worked to Roberts, who turned the ball inside for Keshi Anderson, whose cross hit Thomas and deflected in at the near post.

The closest Coventry came to scoring came in the 20th minute when Haji Wright hit the bar.

Goalkeeper John Ruddy came out of his box to head away a clearance, but only as far as Wright, whose volleyed lob bounced before hitting the woodwork.

Blues remained in the ascendancy and Stansfield twice should have done better instead of firing first over and then several feet wide from 20 yards.

Sunjic doubled the hosts’ lead with a rasping low drive from just inside the area after Paik Seung-ho’s corner was headed away by Liam Kitching, his effort catching keeper Bradley Collins unawares.

Coventry, following a triple substitution at half-time, began the second half looking much improved, creating two quick opportunities.

Kasey Palmer’s 25-yard drive was parried by Ruddy, then Ben Sheaf fired a rising effort over from just inside the area.

There was now an edge to the match and Stansfield and Van Ewijk were booked for shoving each other after the Blues striker was penalised when he thought he had won the ball back.

But Birmingham dashed any hopes of a Coventry comeback when Stansfield made it 3-0.

The on-loan Fulham forward clipped the ball past Collins after his superb diagonal run behind the defence which took him beyond Kitching was spotted by Roberts.

Leicester manager Enzo Maresca paid tribute to his team’s character after seeing them regain control of the race for automatic promotion from the Championship.

Stephy Mavididi’s 87th-minute header, after Jay Stansfield had earlier cancelled out Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s opener, saw the Foxes beat Birmingham 2-1 and take full advantage of defeats for Ipswich and Leeds to regain first place.

Despite dominating for long periods, against opponents who now find themselves inside the relegation zone with only five matches remaining, Maresca’s men struggled to translate their superiority into a commanding lead following Dewsbury-Hall’s clinical 28th-minute finish from Patson Daka’s assist.

Indeed, when Leicester goalkeeper Mads Hermansen gifted Blues a route back into the game, it appeared as if the visitors would claim an unlikely point in their battle for survival.

But after seeing Stansfield charge down the Dane’s attempted clearance on the stroke of half-time, Maresca’s men held their nerve with Mavididi guiding substitute Yunus Akgun’s centre past John Ruddy and into the back of the net.

“I just told the players I’m very happy, especially for the way we came through,” Maresca said.

“We performed well throughout the whole of the game. Unfortunately we conceded right at the end of the first half but carried on in exactly the same way in the second.

“There can be a temptation to try and go long ball but we resisted that temptation.

“The big thing for us is to manage the emotions. That is the most important thing at this stage of the season.

“When we come to this point, things can move around a lot. Positions can change a lot. So it is important just to keep that focus, dominate the transitions, and keep doing the same thing. Show belief in what you are doing. We did that out there.”

With the Foxes returning to action at Millwall on Tuesday, Maresca added: “We just need to go game by game now. That has to be the mentality. We are not looking beyond that.

“We simply focus on the next one and go from there. Then, when the season is over, that is when we look at our position.”

Rowett, overseeing Blues for the third time since being placed in interim charge, cut a frustrated but defiant figure afterwards.

“It was tough to take, especially when you get to that time,” he said.

“But Leicester are an incredible side and they make the pitch so wide. There was some last-ditch defending and yes, there were times when we were thinking we’d done well to keep them at bay. But we just could not hold on and that is disappointing.

“There were periods when we did put them under pressure. That was when the stadium felt like a different place. But when you press them, they find those spaces and can play through you. That’s what really good sides do, they find ways and solutions.”

Despite their perilous predicament, Rowett is still backing Blues to haul themselves out of trouble.

“Our season is not going to be defined by taking points at Leicester away,” he added.

“It is going to be defined by our home games. It’s up to us and I think we’ve got enough quality in the group.

“What you have to do, at this stage of the season, is perform under pressure. For me that pressure is a privilege.”

Russell Martin believes Southampton’s togetherness and spirit will help in their push for an immediate Premier League return after they fought for a much-needed, last-gasp 4-3 win at 10-man Birmingham.

Having been relegated with a whimper last term before enduring a difficult start to life in the Sky Bet Championship, Saints then went on a club-record 25-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

That streak ended 18 days ago with the first of four defeats in five games, with three of those losses coming in the league as their hopes of automatic promotion began to fade.

Martin’s men desperately needed to return to winning ways to kick-start their promotion bid and substitute Joe Aribo’s stoppage-time strike completed a breathless victory at St Andrew’s.

“The identity of the team has changed and how it functions and how it plays, and what is important to the team,” the Saints boss said after catching his breath. “But the biggest change has been in that (spirit).

“I think how together they are, how much they believe in each other, how much they trust each other, how much they care for each other.

“And that just takes time and hopefully they see that the same thing from us as a group of coaching staff.

“It has been amazing and they are so together and they feel everything together.

“Football has a tendency to make you into a bit of a robot, really, emotionally, especially when you’ve been in the game for a long time.

“You have a bit of like scar tissue from previous battles but been amazing to see some of them open up and be a bit vulnerable.

“To play the way we play you have to be a bit vulnerable sometimes with the ball because it’s a bit scary. I have nothing but gratitude for that and I’ve loved watching it.

“That spirit will help us for sure in the last quarter of the season.

“I’d rather not win in the last minute, but I think it’s down to togetherness and spirit, and also the amount of work they put into opposition teams with the ball.

“They make teams have to run really, really hard and it tires people out.”

Saints were on top for large parts but twice came from behind in Birmingham, where Koji Miyoshi and Jay Stansfield efforts were cancelled out by Adam Armstrong and David Brooks respectively.

Che Adams went on to put the visitors ahead against his former club, who were reduced to 10 men when Blues skipper Dion Sanderson was sent off.

Birmingham dug deep in the absence of boss Tony Mowbray and Juninho Bacuna equalised, but Southampton were not to be denied as Aribo sparked stoppage-time celebrations.

Assistant Mark Venus, who felt Sanderson’s red card was undeserved, said: “It must have exciting for the fans. It was emotional sat there, to be honest.

“I think if you just look at the end of it, we got to 90-odd minutes with 3-3 with 10 men and just to concede the last goal is heartbreaking for everybody, really.

“I think they were dangerous every time they put the ball in the box and bottom line is we rode our luck.

“We played against a good team in the league and showed a lot of character.”

Tony Mowbray praised Birmingham after they “found a way” to edge a lively 2-1 win at Stoke.

The new boss stretched his unbeaten start to three games in all competitions as Blues rose to eight points above the relegation zone.

“I’m really pleased for the supporters behind the goal,” said Mowbray.

“It’s my first experience of the away support from Birmingham City and it was big and loud and noisy; it’s great that they could celebrate a win.

“We found a way today and that’s the important thing in football but we can’t play like we did in that second half every week because we won’t win many matches.”

Jay Stansfield opened the scoring inside 10 minutes as he rifled home his eighth league goal of the season.

The Potters responded positively to their early setback but struggled to convert their dominance into chances.

And the visitors capitalised shortly after the restart thanks to Juninho Bacuna’s exquisite free-kick from 25 yards.

Jordan Thompson halved the hosts’ arrears late on, but Birmingham held on for a vital victory.

“First half, the game plan was good and we looked like we could break away and score,” Mowbray added.

“That’s probably the best football that Stoke have played for a long time and Steven (Schumacher) deserves a lot of credit for that.

“They were good today and in the second half, we went into protection mode, but we managed to see it out.

“You can give your team organisation and structure and I thought we saw the game out well today against as good a Stoke team as I’ve seen.

“I like a lot of what we’ve got at this football club; I’ve just got to change the mentality a little bit.

“The vast majority of them are very humble and hard-working and it’s hurt them where they are, but we’re only here to win now.”

It was a frustrating afternoon for Stoke, whose five-match unbeaten start under Steven Schumacher came to an end.

Bae Jun-ho struck the bar, Michael Rose failed to convert from close-range and Ryan Mmaee missed a host of chances for the toothless Potters.

“It was disappointing to lose it and I don’t think we deserved to lose it,” said Schumacher.

“The performance was good bar a couple mistakes, but it’s two brilliant bits of quality that has decided the outcome.

“We got more in the dangerous areas than Birmingham did, but we didn’t make the most of it, so that’s disappointing.

“It’s important that we are creating chances; that wasn’t the case a few weeks ago, so now I need the lads to show their quality and composure.

“With the way we’ll play and the way we’ll get forward, they’ll get chances so now we’ve got to find a way to take them.

“I’ve got belief in the squad; the players have got quality but they’ve got to make the most of big opportunities.”

Birmingham manager Tony Mowbray said his substitutions changed the game after his side’s late FA Cup replay 2-1 win over Hull.

Mowbray made five changes just after the hour-mark and the substitutes made an immediate impact.

Jay Stansfield equalised in the 66th minute after Jason Lokilo had opened the scoring with his first Hull goal after 12 minutes.

Another of Mowbray’s substitutes, Koji Miyoshi, scored the winner in stoppage time to set up a fourth-round tie at Leicester.

“The substitutions undoubtedly changed the game with the quality they brought,” said Mowbray.

“My intention was always to provide energy so I was always going to make substitutions. The supporters will get used to that.

“Modern day football is why you have to have a squad, you don’t weaken your team by making substitutions, you freshen it up.

“You make sure the lads who aren’t starting know they have an important part to play in the match.

“You have to love the players and trust them, they have to know the gaffer’s on their side. You can’t just have 11, everyone has to be part of the team.”

“The lads who came on brought how we want to play and what we want to do, they got their rewards.”

Mowbray praised his side’s determination to win the game in stoppage time.

“There were lots of positives from the game and we got the job done,” he said.

“That’s two games on the bounce where we’ve got something late on.

“I saw a message at the training ground, ‘Keep Right On’ and that’s what we’ll do.

“We’ll go right to the end and see if we can get the benefits.”

Mowbray says Fulham can recall Stansfield from his loan at St Andrew’s, but feels the player wants to stay. Stansfield scored one and assisted the winner.

“There is a small, tight window for Fulham to recall him,” said Mowbray. “It hasn’t closed, but I get on well with Marco Silva and he’d tell me if there were any issues.

“I think the kid loves it here when I look him in the eye, there are other interested parties but I think he wants to stay, score goals and progress his career. He’s in a good place here.”

Hull manager Liam Rosenior says it is time his side stopped receiving praise for their performance without getting the result.

“I was proud of the young players and their performance. But we ran out of legs.

“I have to be so careful at the moment as we have injuries coming out of our ears and two players on AFCON duty,” said Rosenior.

“We also have an important game against Sunderland coming up on Friday.

“I have to manage the squad in the right way. We couldn’t fill the bench here. But, yet again, we’ve somehow managed to throw away a comfortable position and lose the game.

“It’s hard, I’m frustrated. I’m sick and tired of coming in after the game and saying ‘Well done, the performance was great, but we didn’t get the rewards’.

“This has to be the last time. It’s a watershed moment in our season, this result has summed up a lot of our games.

“But I don’t throw players under the bus,  but we have to knuckle down. We’ll come through this.”

Birmingham manager Wayne Rooney admitted he could have replaced his whole team at half-time after a 3-1 Championship defeat to Stoke at St Andrew’s.

First-half goals from Jordan Thompson and Lynden Gooch put Stoke 2-0 ahead and Andre Vidigal made it three before Jay Stansfield’s 69th-minute consolation as Stoke ended a nine-match winless run and moved above Blues on goal difference.

Rooney has taken just nine points out of 39 since taking over, to leave Blues 19th in the table, just seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Rooney has suffered eight defeats and home fans began streaming out after Stoke’s third goal, while those that were left jeered the team off at the end.

“Ideally, you wish you could have 11 subs as I could have changed all 11 players at half-time,” said Rooney.

“We just weren’t doing the right things – the basics. It wasn’t lack of effort, that would be unfair to say. It was lack of game knowledge.

“It’s hard to put into words. I didn’t see that performance coming. I didn’t recognise the team out there on the pitch.

“It’s frustrating because over the last few games we’d made some real strides, so this was difficult to take.

“It wasn’t the result, or the performance, or anything we wanted to be honest. It was unrecognisable in the way we played.

“I felt the players didn’t want to take the ball, they didn’t press the way we wanted them to.

“The goals we conceded were crazy and we didn’t deserve anything out of the game.”

Stoke led in the 12th minute through Thompson’s 25-yard drive – his first strike for three years – which took a slight deflection off Juninho Bacuna.

Potter captain Gooch doubled their lead on the half-hour after darting down the left in a lightning counter-attack and poking the ball through goalkeeper John Ruddy’s legs.

The Potters made it 3-0 after 53 minutes when Vidigal beat Dion Sanderson before lifting the ball over Ruddy to send Birmingham fans heading for the exits.

The hosts pulled one back through Stansfield after goalkeeper Jack Bonham saved teenage substitute Romelle Donovan’s effort.

New Stoke head coach Steven Schumacher maintained his unbeaten start, making it four points from his first two games in charge and admitted a back-to-basics approach was working for him.

“What we’ve tried to do with the lads is just set some pretty basic, simple ground rules,” he said.

“These are about how we’re going to try to behave at the training ground and what we expect, what are the non-negotiables and how we’re going to try to play, with and without the ball.

“We showed some bits of quality so that was really pleasing and we managed to do enough to get the three points that we desperately wanted and needed.

“When you come into a job, you’re desperate just to get the first win and we’ve done that now.”

Wayne Rooney accused some of his substitutes of falling short after Birmingham surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 against high-flying Ipswich at St. Andrew’s.

Rooney picked up his first point since becoming City manager but was denied his first win after substitute Marcus Harness’ late brace extended Ipswich’s unbeaten league run to 11 games.

Jay Stansfield’s fifth goal of the season gave City a 13th-minute lead and it was followed by a Cameron Burgess own goal after 51 minutes.

Ipswich were a different proposition after the break though and substitute Harness replied in the 79th and 89th minutes.

Ipswich made four substitutions in the 72nd minute and three of them combined for Harness’s first goal.

“Their subs made the difference and I felt ours didn’t,” said Rooney.

“Some of the lads who came on didn’t do enough. The lads worked extremely hard to put us in the position we were in, and when you’re coming off the bench you need to be better than a few of them were.

“When you make changes and bring players into the game, you have to pick that (intensity) up, especially as Ipswich were starting to get a bit of control, so we needed them to give us that energy to continue what we were doing.

“I just felt there were a couple of players who didn’t do that for us. That’s something for us to improve on.”

Rooney admitted City are trying to improve players’ fitness so they can maintain their intensity for longer.

“The way I want them to play is different – it’s more front-footed and it takes a lot more energy to do that,” he said.

“We’re constantly trying to build that up so they can get to a level where they can do it for 90 minutes.

“But as we started tiring, Ipswich started to get control and pushed us back and we couldn’t hold them.

“Ideally I want to be making changes for tactical reasons, not necessarily for physical reasons.”

Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna praised the character of his team and substitutes after coming back from two goals down to retrieve something from a game for the third time this season.

“I was really pleased and proud of the players and for the supporters as well,” said McKenna.

“The biggest credit due was our reaction to their second goal because that was the one that could have really deflated the group. But we managed to pick straight up and keep going how we were.

“We’ve seen it before with this group and we’ve built that resilience over time to keep playing our football, and trust if we do the right things we can always score.”

In contrast to Rooney’s view on his substitutions, McKenna was full of praise for his replacements, who changed the game.

“Credit to all the subs who came on – the boys all knew what slots they were going to come into and they all had a really good impact,” he said.

“Marcus scored twice to back up his goal from last week and that was great for the spirit in the group.

“It was also great for the understanding that with the challenge we face this year, it’s going to take the whole squad.”

Adam Armstrong scored his eighth goal of the season as Southampton eased to a 3-1 Sky Bet Championship victory and condemned Wayne Rooney to a third straight defeat as Birmingham manager.

Forward Armstrong now has eight career goals against Blues, more than he has scored against any other side, as he settled the game with a fine finish.

He had set up Taylor Harwood-Bellis’ opener before Carlos Alcaraz tapped in – both players’ first goals of the season. Jay Stansfield pulled one back for the visitors but it could not help end Rooney’s winless run.

Southampton had monopolised the opening stages without creating anything clear-cut until Harwood-Bellis nodded in the ninth-minute opener.

Armstrongs Stuart and Adam worked a short-corner routine before the latter lifted for the Manchester City loanee to power in his third professional goal, and first since last September.

Blues rallied but Oliver Burke’s lashed effort into the side netting – their only shot of the first half – poked the hosts back into life.

Kamaldeen Sulemana and Stuart Armstrong linked up smartly on the left flank before the Ghanaian slid across the face of the goal for Alcaraz to push in.

Rooney had been booed after Wednesday’s 2-0 home defeat by Hull, and Saints supporters rubbed their advantage in with a round of “sacked in the morning” aimed at the Manchester United great.

But rather than rub further salt into the wound of Rooney’s poor start, Birmingham fans supported their boss with cries of “Rooney, Rooney” and “Wayne Rooney’s Blue Army”.

Their support should have been rewarded with a spot-kick but goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu got away with flattening Burke in the box.

Saints should have gone into the break with more than a two-goal advantage as Harwood-Bellis’ free header from a corner skipped wide and Adam Armstrong clipped a one-on-one over John Ruddy but wide of the goal.

After the break, Stuart Armstrong tamely ended a well-worked move and Adam Armstrong’s diving header flashed wide.

But the hosts floundered and Blues capitalised. Stansfield jumped off the bench, met Lukas Jutkiewicz’s knockdown, bullied his way past Kyle Walker-Peters and rifled into the top corner – all within 52 seconds of his 57th-minute introduction.

It was Stansfield’s fourth goal of the season and extended Southampton’s wait for a home clean sheet to 28 matches.

But Saints held onto the ball well and made sure of the result in the 86th minute when top-scorer Adam Armstrong pounced and swivelled onto Sam Edozie’s nod down.

Scott Hogan curled one onto the roof of the goal in additional time but it could not stop Saints moving to a sixth game unbeaten to cement their place in the play-off spots.

Milutin Osmajic scored his first goal in English football as Championship leaders Preston came from a goal down to beat Birmingham 2-1.

Jay Stansfield’s strike in the opening minute of the second half threatened to end Preston’s unbeaten start to the season but the table-toppers were on level terms when Krystian Bielik headed into his own net in the 51st minute.

Preston then made it six wins from their opening seven games thanks to Osmajic’s composed close-range finish in the 67th minute.

After a tight and cagey first 25 minutes, the game was almost unlocked by the hosts when Duane Holmes played in Brad Potts inside the area with the goal at his mercy but he blazed over the crossbar from close range.

Birmingham had the lion’s share of possession throughout the first half-hour and mustered their first half-chance when Keshi Anderson ran on to the end of a long ball before he skied his effort into the Preston fans behind the goal.

The game’s first shot on target came when Liam Millar let fly from 25 yards but it went straight down the neck of John Ruddy.

The Blues went looking for an opener themselves but Koji Miyoshi’s drilled long-range effort was comfortably saved by Freddie Woodman to keep the game goalless heading into the break.

Birmingham broke the deadlock straight after half-time when Miyoshi slid Stansfield through on goal before he touched and lashed home to make it 1-0.

Preston were not behind for long, getting back on level terms just five minutes later after Alan Browne’s corner was turned in by Bielik into his own goal.

The second half of the contest was a much more entertaining affair and Birmingham almost regained their lead but Ivan Sunjic’s goal-bound effort was well saved by the diving Woodman.

Birmingham went in search of another goal to try and get back to winning ways but Anderson’s strike from outside the area was again stopped easily by Woodman.

The Lilywhites turned the game on its head midway through the second half, once again Browne was the creator who slipped Osmajic through before he coolly slotted under the legs of Ruddy to get his first goal for the club.

North End almost increased their advantage in the 85th minute when Holmes unleashed a dipping effort towards goal but it was tipped over the frame by Ruddy.

Birmingham’s own unbeaten start to the campaign was ended on the weekend at the hands of Watford and they had enough time to bounce back after nine minutes of added time was greeted with a huge roar from the travelling contingent.

The visitors sensed an opportunity when the ball fell for Gary Gardner who let rip from outside the area but the deflection fell nicely for the hosts who cleared and held on for three points once again.

On-loan striker Jay Stansfield’s second-half goal rescued a point for Birmingham against Millwall to maintain the club’s unbeaten start to the Championship season.

Stansfield grabbed his second in two league games after Kevin Nisbet had given the Lions an early lead.

Birmingham’s Scott Hogan could have equalised deep into first-half stoppage time but his penalty was saved.

The West Midlands side started brightly with Lee Buchanan’s dangerous left-wing cross heading for Hogan but the City striker was quickly crowded out.

Juninho Bacuna then sliced high and wide as it looked like the home side were taking control.

But the visitors struck after just six minutes.

City keeper John Ruddy got a hand to Nisbet’s 22-yard free-kick but could not keep it out after Kevin Long had fouled Tom Bradshaw.

Stansfield glanced a header wide of Millwall keeper Matija Sarkic’s back post before Bradshaw’s effort sailed over Ruddy’s bar.

Bacuna went close twice in as many minutes as the hosts battled to get back on terms.

Blues skipper Dion Sanderson headed over Keshi Anderson’s free-kick at the back post when he should have hit the target.

Millwall thought they had gone 2-0 up after 20 minutes.

Ryan Leonard fired in a George Saville corner but the spectacular strike was disallowed after his volley was judged to have hit Jake Cooper who was standing in an offside position.

The home crowd grew restless as opportunities dried up with the visitors defending resolutely.

However, Birmingham were awarded a penalty five minutes into stoppage time in the first-half after Sarkic fouled Anderson as he latched on to a slide-rule Bacuna pass.

But the goalkeeper made amends as he dived to his right to brilliantly save Hogan’s spot-kick – and Ivan Sunjic shot wide from the rebound.

The equaliser came eight minutes after the restart.

Stansfield hammered a stunning shot into the bottom left-hand corner after he ran on to an outstanding reverse pass from Bacuna.

And Stansfield, on loan from Fulham, almost put Birmingham ahead minutes later but his fierce attempt was well dealt with by Sarkic.

Millwall still posed a danger and Ruddy had to be alert to smother Saville’s 25-yard effort on his line.

City midfielder Krystian Bielik headed away Brooke Norton-Cuffy’s attempt as the frantic contest continued to swing from end to end.

Sarkic acted quickly to cut out Sunjic’s drilled cross into the six-yard box in the closing minutes.

A final chance fell to left-back Buchanan who blasted high and wide as Birmingham pushed forward hunting a late winner.

Birmingham head coach John Eustace says match-winner Jay Stansfield will be a “really big player” for the club after his wonder goal gave his side a 2-1 win against Plymouth.

On-loan Fulham forward Stansfield, 20, volleyed home from the edge of the box in the fifth minute of time added on for a dream debut for the substitute to make it three wins out of four for Blues.

“Jay is an excellent player and it was an outstanding finish,” said Eustace.

“He comes with a real hunger and a great pedigree and for him to choose to come here over 12 or 13 other Championship clubs is a really massive statement of intent from the club.

“It’s very pleasing he chose to come to us.

“We’ve watched him over the last couple of seasons to see how he’s progressed and developed and he’s going to be a really big player for us.”

Eustace was relieved after Argyle played a full part in the game and looked like earning what would have been a hard-earned point until Stansfield’s wonder goal.

“Plymouth are in a really good moment. They have got really good momentum, they have a fantastic manager who plays the right way and they’re a fantastic footballing team,” he said.

“They did really well when we weren’t at our best and we knew they’d have a lot of the ball.

“It was a real collective performance in a game where we weren’t good with the ball which was disappointing.

“We need to be better when we have the ball but we were always a threat in transition.

“They had a couple of good chances from balls over the top where John Ruddy pulled off a couple of good saves.

“This was our toughest game of the season but we knew that if we defended our box properly then with our pace we had a chance on the turnover.”

Blues led in the eighth minute when Scott Hogan got ahead of Kaine Kesler-Hayden to slide the ball home from close range after the tricky Koji Miyoshi crossed from the left.

Plymouth equalised on the hour when Morgan Whittaker’s curling left-footed shot was saved by John Ruddy and Ryan Hardie reacted quickest to stab home.

Then came Stansfield’s moment of glory. The former Exeter attacker latched onto fellow substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz’s pass before lobbing Lewis Gibson then lashed a volley into the roof of the net to clinch victory.

Plymouth manager Steven Schumacher said: “I was gutted to lose the game in that fashion in the 95th minute again.

“And after what happened last week (Southampton’s Che Adams scored a 90th-minute winner to win 2-1) I’m devastated.

“Again I thought we played really well but I don’t want to keep saying after games that we did great but got beat – that’s doing my head in.

“But it’s part and parcel of football and we’ve got to learn from our mistakes.

“Today I felt we caused our own problems with that goal in the last minute.”

Schumacher felt if Argyle had stuck to their footballing principles they might not have conceded Stansfield’s wonder goal.

“There were 15 seconds to go and we had a throw-in – all day we’d played them short and controlled possession,” he said.

“This time we threw it short then tried a big diagonal pass and it probably wasn’t on.

“If we’d have kept possession and played it into the corner it would have been game over and we’d have gone home with a point.”

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