Premier League - Late Zigic strike shatters Potters
Nikola Zigic headed home three minutes into stoppage time as Birmingham edged out Stoke City 1-0 at St Andrews.
It was no less than the Blues deserved in a tight match and they recorded back-to-back league wins for the first time in a year to ease their relegation worries. Both teams came into today's match on a high. Last time out, the Blues edged out fellow strugglers West Ham 1-0 in a vital relegation six-pointer, while Tony Pulis's side scored two late goals to beat Sunderland 3-2 in a five-goal thriller.
Despite the victory over the Hammers, Birmingham sat just one point away from the relegation places before kick-off and Alex McLeish was relieved to finally secure Obafemi Martins's work permit following his loan move from Rubin Kazan.
The Blues' boss threw the Nigerian straight into the starting XI but it was Serbian team-mate Zigic who had the first chance after six minutes with a header over Begovic's bar.
Robert Huth's defensive header denied Martins a clear sight of goal before Liam Ridgewell's far post effort forced Begovic into a one-handed stop.
Stoke had to wait until midway through the first half before registering their first real shot on goal. Sebastian Larsson fouled Jermaine Pennant and the ex-Birmingham man almost made him pay with a curling free-kick that left Ben Foster helpless only to miss the post by inches.
Craig Gardner was allowed to run and let fly with a shot that Begovic collected at the second attempt, while Stephen Carr's poor ball should have been punished by Rory Delap who blasted way over Foster's bar.
The hosts failed to learn their lesson as Bentley gifted Kenwyne Jones with another wayward pass, but the Trinidad & Tobago man's left-footed strike was well claimed low down by the diving Foster.
Bentley almost made amends with a curling effort five minutes from half time, but the ball drifted wide to leave it goalless at the break.
The ever-lively Larsson came close to opening the scoring within 10 minutes of the restart. Gardner set him up and the Swede cut inside before his outswinging effort flew narrowly wide.
Huth was involved in two pivotal moments halfway through the second period.
The German thumped the ball past Foster on 65 minutes following Delap's long throw into the box, only to be denied by a flag and just a minute later was lucky to get away with what looked a clear handball in the area from Bentley's volley.
McLeish threw on Jerome for Martins with 15 minutes remaining in a bid to find a winner and the sub should have tested Begovic from the corner of the box but missed the target. Jerome then played in Roger Johnson only for the defender to shoot with the same result.
Pulis played his last card when Ricardo Fuller came on for Jones and the Jamaican could have made an instant impact only to shoot over Foster's bar with nine minutes left.
But it was Jerome who eventually proved the more telling replacement.
Bentley's crisp strike was fumbled by the Bosnian and as Jerome chipped the ball back in, Zigic was on hand to take all three points and send the Blues to the heady heights of 14th in the Premier League.