A fine free-kick from Martin Grainger gave Birmingham a surprise win over runaway Division One leaders Fulham at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

The former Brentford full back curled home the only goal of the game two minutes into the second half after Kit Symons had been penalised for a foul on striker Dele Adebola just outside the penalty area. Fulham fashioned plenty of chances to have avoided defeat but lacked a cutting edge in the absence of their injured striking trio Louis Saha, Luis Boa Morte and Barry Hayles. Danish loanee Peter Moller made his debut but didn’t get much support from Andrejs Stolcers, who was withdrawn in favour of German veteran Karl-Heinz Riedle early in the second half.

Blues put eleven men behind the ball after taking the lead and held on for a precious win that will have given their own promotion ambitions a real shot in the arm. City are comfortably ensconced in the play-off positions and protected goalkeeper Ian Bennett, who didn’t have much work to do in the closing stages, despite the Whites laying siege to the Birmingham goal late on.

Danish winger Bjarne Goldbaek was unfortunate not to level matters late on when his own free-kick hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced away to safety. Birmingham could easily have scored more but Adebola wasted several good opportunities as he benefited from Fulham having concentrated their attention on preventing former Craven Cottage cult hero Geoff Horsfield from scoring on his first return to his old stomping ground. Australian winger Stan Lazaridis posed the hosts plenty of problems – and the visitors were good value for a vital three points.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Symons; Davis, Clark (Lewis 75), Goldbaek, Fernandes; Moller, Stolcers (Riedle 55). Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Neilson, Trollope.

BOOKED: Brevett, Davis, Fernandes, Melville.

BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Bennett, Gill, Eaden, Grainger, Sonner (Hughes 70), O’Connor, Purse, M Johnson, Lazaridis, Adebola (A Johnson 74), Horsfield. Subs (not used): Poole, Burrows, Ndlovu.

BOOKED: O’Connor.

GOAL: Grainger (47).

REFEREE: Stuart Mathieson (Stockport).