Ten-man Birmingham boosted their survival bid as they held on for a 1-1 draw in Sunday's local derby against Wolves at St Andrew's.
Alex McLeish's team knew a defeat would plunge them firmly into the relegation dog-fight and they were up against it when Steven Fletcher's penalty gave Wolves an early lead.
Sebastian Larsson equalised for League Cup winners Birmingham but the hosts' task became a lot header when midfielder Craig Gardner was sent off for diving.
To Birmingham's credit they managed to keep Wolves at bay and are now four points clear of the drop zone with three games to play, while things look bleaker for Mick McCarthy's visitors, who remain second bottom and sit one point from safety.
McCarthy's men made the perfect start as they took the lead through Fletcher's seventh minute penalty.
Ben Foster was at fault as his poor clearance fell straight to Matt Jarvis and the winger played in Stephen Ward.
Foster came off his line to block but only succeeded in bringing down Ward and referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot before booking the Birmingham goalkeeper.
Fletcher sent Foster the wrong way from the penalty spot for his ninth goal of the season.
Blues midfielder Gardner was booked after squaring up to Jamie O'Hara, but the hosts almost equalised when Larsson's free-kick crashed against the crossbar with Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessey well beaten.
Birmingham kept pressing and equalised in the 27th minute when Michael Mancienne made a hash of dealing with Foster's punt.
Mancienne, on loan from Chelsea, directed his back header well short of Hennessey and Larsson nipped in to fire home.
Just as Birmingham seemed to be taking control, Wolves were given a boost when Gardner was sent off after collecting a second yellow card for diving after Jody Craddock's challenge.
With so much at stake for both sides, it was no surprise that such a frenetic encounter featured more than the occasional bruising tackle and Mancienne was left hobbling after being caught down the back of the Achilles by Larsson.
Adam Hammill came on for the injured Wolves defender Richard Stearman at half-time and only a risky challenge from Foster on the touchline prevented him creating a chance in the opening minutes of the second half.
When Kevin Foley brought down Jean Beausejour just outside the Wolves area, Larsson had a chance to score again but the Swede could not keep his free-kick down.
A mistake by Lee Bowyer let in Jarvis but he sliced his shot well wide.
Foster got his body behind a low drive from O'Hara as Wolves pushed for victory, but they couldn't create enough momentum to break down the Blues' stubborn rearguard.