Burnley boss Sean Dyche protested animatedly to fourth official Robert Ellis after Birmingham City substitute Federico Macheda’s contentious equaliser deep in to stoppage time at St Andrew’s.
The Manchester United loanee threw himself at fellow sub Nikola Zigic’s flick on from Tyler Blackett’s cross to steer the ball beyond Tom Heaton, but the Clarets reacted furiously and immediately surrounded referee James Linington.
But the match official pointed to the centre circle and the goal stood to make the scoreline 3-3, with the Clarets surrendering their lead on three occasions.
However, it was a point that bolstered their bid for a Premier League return as they restored their eight-point cushion over third place Derby County.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche made his first change to the starting XI in nine Championship games, rewarding Ross Wallace with his first start in six months following his display in the East Lancashire derby at Ewood Park as the winger stepped in for Michael Kightly.
Expectation was high before kick-off with Burnley unbeaten in 12 going in to the fixture, while Lee Clark’s Brum hadn’t won at home in 12 with the last triumph coming against Sheffield Wednesday at the beginning of October.
The Wednesday night game truly defined the term ‘a game of two halves’ with the first incredibly timid in comparison to the second. The Clarets were well in control at the interval, as the hosts posed very little threat and deservedly led through Dean Marney’s header from close range on the half hour.
Though it wasn’t the most convincing performances, the Clarets battled hard and pressed energetically to negate an opposition fighting to retain their place in
England’s second tier.
Kieran Trippier smashed a volley in to the stands after Ross Wallace’s corner had picked him out perfectly at the back post, though the home support were incensed that a free-kick hadn’t been awarded at the other end after Chris Burke was tripped by Ben Mee on the angle of the penalty area.
City forced a couple of openings, with Andy Shinnie pulling a shot harmlessly wide from the edge of the box while Olly Lee wasted an opportunity to fire a set-piece in to the box - after Tom Adeyemi was felled by David Jones - but opted to touch the ball wide to Emyr Huws who saw his centre cleared without pressure.
It was all very speculative from City, with the home side gambling on the scraps of Burke’s deliveries, and Heaton was forced to plunge low to his near post to turn
Blackett’s half-volley around the upright.
After Scott Arfield was spurned by Paul Robinson on the edge of the box, with Danny Ings’s clever flick opening up the space for the midfielder, Novak lifted an effort in to the arms of Heaton from the edge of the box.
The goal arrived on 30 minutes when Wallace, stood up by Blackett, found a way past his marker and whipped in a cross which was headed down by Ings, who had towered above Will Packwood, and forced home at the far post by Marney with a stooping header from close range.
The action came in the second half with 16,695 fans, including 1,593 Clarets, treated to five goals.
Once Novak and Burke had combined to go within inches of setting up the leveller, with the former throwing himself at the winger’s centre, and Sam Vokes had guided Jones’s corner in to the side-netting, Clark opted to introduce Macheda at the expense of Lee and move to a more attacking 4-4-2.
That decision opened up the fixture and the Clarets almost doubled their advantage when Arfield prospered from Darren Randolph’s poor clearance, found Wallace and continued his run in to the box before retrieving the pass though his touch was too heavy as he rounded the keeper.
Dyche then made his first change, with Wallace withdrawn and Junior Stanislas coming on in his place. However, within 60 seconds of that change the home side were level as Macheda controlled Shinnie’s assist deep inside the area with his first touch before nonchalantly slotting the ball in to the corner with his second.
The away side weren’t deterred by that, though, and restored the lead within three minutes. Trippier sat a free-kick up at the back post and Michael Duff leapt above
his marker to send a looping header across Randolph and in to the far corner.
But it was a case of blink and you’ll miss it as City equalised once again just two minutes later. City found Burke, the home side’s most productive outlet, and his swinging cross was headed clear only as far as Huws and the midfielder cushioned the ball on his chest before lashing an unstoppable volley from 25 yards in to the corner.
Neither side wanted to settle for a point, and as space opened up on the pitch, City exploited the apertures when Shinnie ghosted in to the pocket between Burnley’s midfield and defence but sliced wide when trying to replicate Huws’s earlier effort.
The bad news for the visitors came with 15 minutes remaining when Ings screamed out in agony after colliding with Adeyemi in the centre of the park and was eventually replaced by Ashley Barnes after limping awkwardly off the field.
Clark responded again and added another striker in the form of Zigic as he replaced Shinnie. The Serbian had an immediate impact, winning the majority of Brum’s percentage passes and forcing the pressure but it was the Clarets who would create the clearer openings.
First Marney blazed over after Vokes had his shot charged down on the edge of the box, before Arfield lifted an effort over the crossbar from inside the area when connecting with the ball at the second attempt.
Eventually, Burnley’s perseverance paid off and they had their lead back with just four minutes of normal time remaining. A perfect pass from Trippier started the charge, Stanislas beat full-back Jonathan Spector down the left and fired in a low cross that was steered in to the roof of the net by Vokes.
The game wasn’t finished there though. Spector almost atoned for his error when scooping an effort agonisingly wide on the turn from Zigic’s header at the back post, while Novak’s glancing header at the near post from Huws’s corner was cleared off the line by the head of Duff.
Dyche’s response to the late bombardment was to bring on David Edgar at the expense of Arfield in hope of seeing out the victory, but it wasn’t to be.
Jones was shrugged off the ball too easily by Adeyemi and he found Blackett who bombed down the right, whipped in an early cross, Zigic won the header, and Macheda moved his arm towards the ball to guide it in to the corner and earn a point.