Birmingham debutant Mikael Forssell scored twice as Steve Bruce's side twice came back from a goal down in an ill-tempered Premiership match at St Andrews.
Louis Saha's 50th goal for Fulham in the first minute caught Birmingham out but the Finn levelled on the stroke of half-time. A red card for Sylvain Legwinski on the hour appeared to have handed the momentum to City but Luis Boa Morte restored Fulham's lead despite appearing to foul Maik Taylor. However, the home side would not lie down and Forssell scrambled a second equaliser as Birmingham retained their unbeaten record this season.
The goal was soured though as Darren Purse was sent off as he tried to get play restarted quickly and appeared to lash out at a Fulham player. Forssell, on a four-month loan from Chelsea, started alongside Stern John up front. Christophe Dugarry was still not quite back to full fitness following minor knee surgery and was not included in the squad. Purse came into central defence in place of Kenny Cunningham, who suffered a groin injury while in action for the Republic of Ireland last weekend.
Zat Knight retained his place at centre-back for Fulham despite Andy Melville's recovery from a foot injury. The Welshman took his place on the bench. Within 30 seconds Saha's pace had caught out Birmingham as he raced on to Jerome Bonnissel's pass, nudged the ball round Taylor and slotted in. Forssell almost levelled in the 11th minute when he chested down Damien Johnson's cross but drilled a low shot wide. The home team had to rouse themselves and Forssell was close again in the 26th minute as his low cross-shot was turned away for a corner by Bonnissel and from the resulting kick John's header was just over the top. Forssell was involved again six minutes later as he played a back-heeled return ball to Stephen Clemence, but the former Tottenham midfielder's shot was a foot over the crossbar. Fulham could afford to soak up pressure and break and from one such counter-attack ended with a Boa Morte shot being deflected wide by Purse from Bonnissel's cut-back. Bonnissel's vision almost released Boa Morte in the 44th minute but Purse - the last man between the Portuguese winger and the goal - made a vital tackle. Birmingham, however, went in level when Knight was for once caught out by a header into the box and Forssell slotted through van der Sar's legs. Olivier Tebily, on at half-time for Jeff Kenna, clattered into Boa Morte in the first few seconds of the second period. It took a smart block by Matthew Upson seconds later to deny a low shot from Steed Malbranque as Fulham attempted to show that Forssell's late strike had not affected them.
The Londoners went even closer in the 50th minute when a low free-kick by Malbranque caught Birmingham sleeping and Legwinski's shot struck the crossbar and came out. Clemence curled a shot wide for Birmingham but the pace of Fulham's forwards was a constant worry as Boa Morte cut inside from the left and was only denied by a desperate challenge by Johnson.
In the 55th minute another swift counter released Boa Morte but his low shot from the inside left position hit the side-netting. Fulham's hopes were hit by a red card for Legwinski who was shown a second yellow card on the hour for a late tackle on Dunn. The home side were boosted by the dismissal but the final ball was lacking and both sides made a change in the 64th minute as Stan Lazaridis replaced Clemence and new signing Mark Pembridge came on for Junichi Inamoto, on a yellow card. Bruce brought on Clinton Morrison in the 70th minute for John, hoping his pace would unlock the tiring Fulham defence.
Birmingham were dominant now in terms of possession but the quality of the openings they were creating was poor with the visitors now seemingly happy to take a point with 10 men. Incredibly, the Cottagers restored their lead as a hopeful ball forward saw Boa Morte challenge Taylor and as the keeper fumbled it, the Portuguese player planted a weak overhead kick into the net. Dunn among others protested to referee Steve Dunn that Taylor was fouled but to no avail. Saha, who worked tirelessly as the lone striker, came off with nine minutes later as Argentinian forward Facundo Sava stepped in.
Birmingham's fighting spirit came to the fore though as Robbie Savage swung in a free-kick, Purse's header was brilliantly saved by van der Sar and Forssell turned in the rebound. Purse tried to grab the ball back from Boa Morte to run back to the centre circle but was sent off after an ugly tangle. The atmosphere soured as Fulham tried to hold what they had, though a curling free-kick by Savage would have won it but for a stunning tip-over by van der Sar.