Match ends, Blyth Spartans 2, Birmingham City 3.
- Birmingham make 10 changes to face non-league hosts
- Robbie Dale fires Blyth into two-goal lead
- Lee Novak and Wes Thomas brace take Blues through
Birmingham City came from two down with three goals in six second-half minutes to avoid an embarrassing FA Cup upset at non-league Blyth Spartans.
The Championship club are 120 places above Blyth in the football pyramid but trailed to two Robbie Dale strikes.
The Blyth captain - a barman in his mother's pub - turned in a Jarrett Rivers cross from six yards and added his seventh goal in six FA Cup ties with a run and finish from 18 yards.
His efforts sparked a standing half-time ovation from the 3,644 fans packed into Croft Park but when Lee Novak drilled home on 52 minutes, the mood shifted.
Birmingham striker Wes Thomas's determined finish to level was in fitting with his side's second-half attitude and his headed winner from four yards prevented a first defeat by non-league opposition in 21 years.
Blyth - conquerors of Hartlepool in round two and the lowest-ranked side left in the competition - could be forgiven for dreaming of just a second fourth-round appearance in their 116-year history at the break, such was their control.
The Northern Premier League outfit looked far from a side sat 16th in the seventh tier of English football and familiar with the test their bobbly home pitch offers.
After Birmingham's Nikola Zigic blazed the first chance of the game over Spartans - who also boast a taxi driver, labourer and engineer in their ranks - grew in confidence, none more so than Rivers.
His centre found Dale - a player who says he is not too bothered about football - to apply an easy finish.
Spartans' Stephen Turnbull described drawing Birmingham as an "anti-climax" but he and his team-mates looked eager and motivated when Dale dribbled from the left wing unchallenged to drill into the bottom right-hand corner.
Striker James Maguire, a plumber, saw a shot tipped over just before the half-time whistle as they almost made it 3-0.
But Birmingham boss Gary Rowett has instilled fight in his side and boasts just two defeats in 11 games in charge.
Though his 10 changes from the win at Nottingham Forest looked sluggish in the opening half, the response was vicious and when Novak reduced the arrears, Thomas delivered terminal blows to Blyth's cup dreams.
Blyth defender Joel Dixon powered a header wide at the death but they will now focus on making up the 11 games they have in hand on some sides in their league as a result of cup exploits.
Birmingham will look forward to Monday's fourth round draw.
- 2DixonSubstituted forNicholsonat 90+2'minutes
- 4HutchinsonSubstituted forParkerat 85'minutes
- 10MullenSubstituted forRichardsonat 66'minutes
- 11DaleBooked at 37mins
- 18HancoxBooked at 80mins
- 7DuffyBooked at 43minsSubstituted forArthurat 82'minutes
- Mike Jones
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Blyth Spartans 2, Birmingham City 3.
Attempt missed. Daniel Maguire (Blyth Spartans) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.
Attempt missed. Danny Parker (Blyth Spartans) header from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the right.
Corner, Blyth Spartans. Conceded by Neal Eardley.
Substitution, Blyth Spartans. Alex Nicholson replaces Joel Dixon.
Foul by Daniel Maguire (Blyth Spartans).
Guy Moussi (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Corner, Birmingham City. Conceded by Jordan Watson.
Substitution, Blyth Spartans. Danny Parker replaces Ryan Hutchinson because of an injury.
Substitution, Birmingham City. Koby Arthur replaces Mark Duffy.
Hand ball by Daniel Maguire (Blyth Spartans).
Mitch Hancox (Birmingham City) is shown the yellow card.
Jarrett Rivers (Blyth Spartans) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Mitch Hancox (Birmingham City).
Michael Richardson (Blyth Spartans) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Guy Moussi (Birmingham City).
Corner, Blyth Spartans. Conceded by Mitch Hancox.
Attempt missed. Mitch Hancox (Birmingham City) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Foul by Nathan Buddle (Blyth Spartans).