Gary McSheffrey scored his first hat-trick for Birmingham to spearhead a 3-1 home win over promotion rivals Preston and ensure Steve Bruce will celebrate his fifth anniversary at St Andrews on top of the Coca-Cola Championship.
McSheffrey took his goal tally to 11 since his #4million move from Coventry in August as Blues took their tally to 25 points from the last 10 games.
However, they will not achieve a more fortunate victory all season. Preston showed their lofty position in the table is justified and on this evidence will be pushing all season for an automatic promotion spot, with Paul McKenna impressing in the centre of midfield.
They could have been 3-0 ahead in the opening 20 minutes had striker David Nugent showed the kind of finishing which is expected to attract interest from Premiership clubs in the transfer window.
City central defenders Matthew Upson, in only his second game after a 10-month lay-off, and Radhi Jaidi were given a torrid time all afternoon.
But McSheffrey provided that touch of ruthlessness in front of goal which ultimately divided the sides and puts Birmingham five points clear of Paul Simpson's side.
Cameron Jerome had one of his best games in a City shirt up front while Fabrice Muamba worked tirelessly in midfield.
Nugent came within inches of giving his side the lead after only two minutes. Blues failed to deal with a long ball into their box which eventually broke to Brett Ormerod, whose shot was parried away by City keeper Maik Taylor, and Nugent looked odds-on to score from close range, but his low shot clipped the far post.
The latter spurned another golden chance after 17 minutes. Blues defender Mat Sadler mis-timed his clearance which was headed by Ormerod into the path of Nugent, but he lobbed the ball over the bar with Taylor in no-man's land.
It was nearly 25 minutes before Birmingham seriously threatened the visitors' goal and it needed a goal-line clearance from Chris Sedgwick to keep out Matthew Upson's header from a Sebastian Larsson corner.
After 32 minutes Bruce's side took the lead through McSheffrey. Sadler made a powerful run down the left flank before finding Jerome and he laid the ball off to McSheffrey, who cut inside and saw his low drive deflect off Sean St Ledger and past the dive of Carlo Nash.
Seven minutes later McSheffrey struck for the second time - with Sadler again playing a major part in the build-up.
The left-back surged to the edge of the Preston box before releasing McSheffrey and he side-stepped St Ledger before driving his low shot into the corner of the net.
But Preston retaliated a minute before the interval through Ormerod. Taylor missed his punch when attempting to clear McKenna's corner and Ormerod hooked the ball home from close range.
Muamba could have restored City's lead in the early stages of the second half after good play by McSheffrey, but Nash was able to save his low drive away to his left.
Muamba almost gifted Preston an equaliser with a mis-timed backpass and Taylor was relieved to see his clearance cannon off Nugent and out for a goal-kick.
McSheffrey could have wrapped up the points after a great run from Nicklas Bendtner, but from eight yards out he lofted his shot over the bar.
However, Blues needed a great close-range save from Taylor to keep out Matt Hill's header from Graham Alexander's centre.
With two minutes remaining McSheffrey completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after being brought down by St Ledger.