Hunt among the goals as Wolves climb out of relegation places
WOLVES climbed out of the npower Championship relegation zone thanks to three first-half goals which proved enough to see off battling local rivals Birmingham in a full-bloodied derby at St Andrew's.
A devastating 17-minute spell stunned the home crowd into silence and proved enough to secure Wanderers' fourth win in five games, as well as their first league double over their neighbours in 14 years, despite a valiant fightback from the hosts.
Stephen Hunt converted the opener after 20 minutes following a largely quiet first quarter, with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake taking advantage of some lackadaisical defending to head home a second.
Shane Ferguson clipped the outside of a post for Blues, who could feel somewhat hard done by on the overall balance of play as they then conceded a third, Kevin Doyle brought down by Jack Butland in the area and Ebanks-Blake slotting home the resulting penalty - with Smethwick-born David Davis playing his part in all three.
Yet Wade Elliott gave Blues hope early in the second half, converting a spot-kick and the home side had a host of further chances to reduce the deficit - Wes Thomas the most profligate figure, coming closest when he headed against a post.
Elliott set up a frantic finale when he converted his own rebound following a saved 95th-minute penalty but the thrilling derby defeat ended a three-match winning run for City, who despite being 10th in the table are themselves just five points off the drop zone.
Wolves centre-back Roger Johnson was roundly booed by the Blues faithful upon his return and it was the visiting defence who were the busier in the early exchanges, Nathan Redmond cutting inside and testing Dorus De Vries.
Yet that was as close as either side came until Wolves' 20th-minute opener.
Butland could only parry Davis' shot from 20 yards and Hunt latched on to the loose ball from a tight angle to fire in off Curtis Davies.
Blues responded positively, Mitch Hancox trying his luck from 25 yards before Nikola Zigic shot over from close range when he really should have done better.
Yet Wolves found themselves two-nil up with 27 minutes on the clock courtesy of some slack marking from the hosts.
Davis was allowed plenty of time in the right channel to pick a perfect cross for the unmarked Ebanks-Blake to head home from two yards.
Birmingham almost found an immediate reply, Ferguson clipping the outside of a post with his free-kick.
Yet St Andrew's was reeling after 37 minutes as Wanderers netted a third.
Davis, once more the creator, sent Doyle clear with a long ball, the Irishman, pursued by three blue shirts, rounded Butland, who stuck out a leg and brought him down, leaving Ebanks-Blake to do the rest from the spot.
The home side knew an early goal at the start of the second period could spark a revival and they got just that, Elliott converting from the spot when Thomas was clipped by Jamie O'Hara after Ravel Morrison's overhead had come back off a post.
Birmingham dominated the second period as they probed for a second, putting the visiting defence under serious pressure.
Thomas was denied by a great defensive block before clipping a post with a header in the 76th minute.
The on-loan Bournemouth striker then nodded over before dragging two chances wide, with Redmond wasting a clear opening of his own when he blazed over from a good position.
Elliott made it 3-2 deep into injury time, converting the rebound after his own penalty had been saved following Jack Robinson's handball, but Wanderers held on to celebrate three valuable points.