Gianfranco Zola’s Blues suffered late heartbreak as they were beaten in stoppage time by promotion favourites Brighton at St. Andrew’s.
Zola’s charges looked to be heading towards a deserved victory after Lukas Jutkiewicz had headed his side in front, but an 82nd minute equaliser from Anthony Knockaert and a stoppage time header from Glenn Murray gave the Seagulls a fortuitous three points.
It was a massively disappointing result for the hosts who had battled gamely throughout the contest.
Zola made just a solitary change to the Blues side that had beaten Ipswich earlier in the week, with Greg Stewart stepping in for the injured Clayton Donaldson.
Blues almost made the perfect start to the game and should have taken the lead inside the first minute.
The ball found its way down the left, where it reached Jutkiewicz who sent a low pass across the face of the goal into the path of Maikel Kieftenbeld. But with just the goalkeeper to beat the Dutch midfielder rattled his shot off the post from six yards.
Blues were playing with some real energy in the opening stages and it was Brighton that were largely being pushed back inside their own half.
But 13 minutes in, Brighton made strong representations for a penalty after Ryan Shotton and Shane Duffy tussled in the area after a free-kick was sent in, but the referee waved away their claims and pointed for a corner.
As the game edged toward the midway point of the first-half, much of the play was taking place in the middle of the pitch.
A fantastic piece of skill from Jonathan Grounds saw the full-back create a great opportunity for himself. Greg Stewart launched a high pass over to the left-wing, where Grounds brought it down out of the air, put it the other side of his marker Bruno Salter and then a curled an excellent shot towards goal that was headed clear by Duffy.
Blues had a shout for a penalty themselves after 37 minutes when Lewis Dunk appeared to hold down Jutkiewicz in the Brighton box, but Referee Andy Madley waved play on.
With the first-half heading towards a conclusion, Blues upped the pressure once again and both Jutkiewicz and Stewart saw shots blocked on the edge of the area.
Half-time: Blues 0 Brighton 0
Both sides emerged unchanged after the break.
St. Andrew’s erupted with joy after 52 minutes when Blues took the lead courtesy of a Jutkiewicz header.
David Davis was the provider as he dinked a neat cross in towards the far post, where Jutkiewicz got above Duffy and nodded home into the far corner of the net.
Despite Brighton attempting to up their game after conceding Blues continued to hold firm and were regularly looking to attack the visitors on the counter-attack.
With just over an hour on the clock Brighton made a double substitution with Solly March and Oliver Norwood replacing Steve Sidwell and Jiri Skalak.
Blues made their first change of the game in the 73rd minute with Josh Dacres-Cogley being sent on in place of Stewart.
Blues came desperately close to doubling their advantage a minute later when Jutkiewicz let fly with a terrific low strike but it was brilliantly turned around the post by Brighton stopper David Stockdale.
With eight minutes of normal time remaining and against the run of play, Brighton found themselves level after Knockaert fired home from inside the area.
Solly March got to the by-line before pulling the ball back for his teammate, who made no mistake as he powered a low shot into the bottom corner.
With 89 on the clock Brighton would have snatched all three points had it not been for Grounds who cleared the Duffy’s effort off his own goal line with Kuszczak stranded.
The game looked as if it would be ending all-square, but in the 95th minute Glenn Murray powered home a header from a corner to seal the win.