Nottingham Forest endured final-minute heartbreak as they were beaten 2-1 at Birmingham City this afternoon.
Britt Assombalonga's goal five minutes from time had appeared to be enough to give Forest a point but the striker was sent off for handball in the 90th minute with Paul Caddis slotting home the resulting penalty to hand the home side all three points.
Looking to pick up where they had left off at Molineux last week, Forest started brightly and were enjoying the lion’s share of the possession.
The Birmingham defence had to be alert twice in a short space of time to clear dangerous crosses from the marauding Michail Antonio.
The Reds soon fell behind though as Birmingham hit the front from their first real attack of the game. Cotterill moved ominously towards the Forest goal and with the Reds defenders backing off, the winger curled a sublime 20-yard effort into the top corner of Karl Darlow’s goal.
Forest were seeing much more of the ball than the hosts but it was Gary Rowett’s men who could have doubled their advantage soon after. Demarai Gray found Clayton Donaldson in space inside the Forest penalty area but Darlow produced a smart stop from 12 yards.
Despite going behind, Forest still looked a potent force going forward. Britt Assombalonga had a good sight of goal midway through the first half but his header from Ben Osborn’s corner was powered over Darren Randolph’s crossbar.
A stroke of luck then almost handed Birmingham their second goal of the afternoon as the home side began to take charge of proceedings. Paul Caddis swung a cross over from the right which hit the back of Danny Fox before looping onto the face of the crossbar and away to safety.
Stuart Pearce’s half-time teamtalk was almost rewritten shortly before the break thanks to former Birmingham man Chris Burke. The Scottish international charged towards the home goal after a rebound had broken kindly to him but Randolph was alert to keep out his low shot with his legs.
Forest substitute Tom Ince was the unlucky recipient of a yellow card on the hour mark amid comical scenes on the touchline. Referee Geoff Eltringham decided Ince was the man guilty of stopping Birmingham from taking a quick throw despite Dexter Blackstock being the one to commit the offence.
The home side were causing problems from set-pieces and it was via that route they almost grabbed a second goal. Michael Morrison met Cotterill’s corner with a powerful header which narrowly cleared Darlow’s goal.
Reds manager Stuart Pearce then swapped Chris Burke and Danny Fox for Jamie Paterson and Tom Ince respectively but it couldn't stem the tide as Darlow had to be at his acrobatic best to turn over a stinging shot from Donaldson with 20 minutes to play.
Dexter Blackstock was then introduced in place of Matty Fryatt with ten minutes to play as Forest sought to grab an equaliser and his header drifted narrowly wide shortly after. But it wasn't to be long before The Reds were level.
Eric Lichaj's right-wing cross was flicked on by Jamie Paterson directly into the path of Assombalonga who was quickest to react at the back post to turn the ball home past Randolph and sent the travelling fans wild behind the goal.
Yet there was to be a dramatic sting in the tail for Forest as Birmingham grabbed the win thanks to a moment of controversy.
Assombalonga directed a Birmingham cross over his own crossbar and despite initial protestations from the home side, referee Eltringham only awarded a corner following agreement with his linesman.
The fourth official stepped in from the touchline though to inform the referee that Assombalonga had handled the ball over the bar and that a penalty should be awarded.
The Forest striker was duly dismissed and Caddis kept his cool to send Darlow the wrong way and send Forest back home with nothing to show for their afternoon's efforts.
Forest: Darlow, Fox (Ince 71'), Lascelles, Mancienne, Lichaj, Burke (Paterson 63'), Osborn, Lansbury, Antonio, Fryatt (Blackstock 80'), Assombalonga
Subs not used: De Vries, Wilson, Hunt, Tesche
Goal: Assombalonga 84'
Bookings: Ince 62', Antonio 80', Lansbury 90',, Lascelles 90'
Sent off: Assombalonga 90'
Birmingham: Randolph, Caddis, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds, Davis, Gleeson, Cotterill, Shinnie (Reilly 70'), Gray (Novak 70'), Donaldson
Subs not used: Doyle, Eardley, Edgar, Arthur, Moussi
Goals: Cotterill 10', Caddis (pen) 90'
Booking: Davis 44'
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Attendance: 18,595 (2,901 away)