Derby 1 Birmingham 2
Nigel Clough’s dream of winning the one domestic trophy that eluded his father, Brian, was shattered as Birmingham defender Liam Ridgewell snatched an injury-time winner in the FA Cup fifth-round tie at Pride Park.
Jay McEveley’s 54th-minute strike put the Rams on course for a quarter-final spot for the first time in 11 years, although Blues keeper Joe Hart will shoulder some of the blame.
But Scott Dann headed home a James McFadden corner to level matters and then Ridgewell popped up with the decider.
It was rough justice on the home side and their inspirational skipper Robbie Savage and they deserved a second chance against a below-par City, with Kris Commons a constant handful for the away defenders.
Derby more than matched their high-flying Barclays Premier League opponents for long periods.
But Blues have a never-say-die spirit about them these days and it surfaced again to seal their place in the last eight.
Birmingham fans were quick to vent their feelings towards their former player Savage after his controversial departure from St Andrew’s.
The first half-chance fell to Dann but he directed his first-time shot wide from a Sebastian Larsson corner.
Derby keeper Stephen Bywater then had to come racing out of his area to hack the ball clear from Cameron Jerome.
It was 31 minutes before the first shot on target arrived and Bywater needed two attempts to cling onto a dipping effort from Lee Bowyer.
Birmingham started to pass the ball about with a bit more authority and a through pass from Larsson was latched onto by Jerome but Bywater manager to turn his shot around the post.
City central defender Roger Johnson got on the end of McFadden’s resulting corner at the far post but could not keep his header down.
Derby retaliated and twice went close to breaking the deadlock.
First Stephen Pearson hit the post from a narrow angle, although Hart was well positioned had the shot been on target.
Then a dangerous low centre from Commons fizzed right across the City area with no-one able to provide a finishing touch.
But Hart produced a splendid point-blank range save to deny Shaun Barker from an inswinging Savage free-kick five minutes before the interval.
A left-wing cross from McEveley had Hart back-pedalling at the start of the second period and was only a couple of feet too high.
The play was generally as scrappy as in the first 45 minutes but Derby appeared to be growing in belief that they could cause an upset.
There was a moment of danger for the home side when Christian Benitez played in Jerome but he delayed his shot and the Derby defence were able to get back and cover.
After 54 minutes, McEveley broke the deadlock, although Hart will be disappointed with his part in the goal.
The left-back tried a speculative shot from 25 yards out and the ball bounced awkwardly in front of Hart before entering the net.
Derby were now in the ascendancy and Hart almost let a low shot from Commons creep through his hands after good play by Savage.
Savage became the first player to be yellow-carded after 61 minutes for a challenge on Benitez.
Blues boss Alex McLeish made a double change after 64 minutes, with Larsson and Benitez replaced by Kevin Phillips and Keith Fahey.
Phillips was immediately in the action and forced Bywater to turn his shot behind for a corner.
With 18 minutes remaining, Dann brought Birmingham back on level terms.
A corner from McFadden picked out the former Coventry player, whose header powered past Bywater, although it appeared to take a deflection.
McLeish made his final substitution in replacing McFadden with Craig Gardner, although the Scotland international looked unhappy with the situation and was shaking his head as he took his place in the dug-out.
In injury-time Ridgewell snatched a winner for City after Phillips’ initial shot had struck the post.
Hart then produced a superb save to tip over a Savage pile-driver.