The small margins left Birmingham City with a pain that will feel limitless over the course of a summer spent pondering the season to come in the Championship. They are League Cup holders but their grip on all that matters most deeply has been broken. Alex McLeish's team leave the top flight because of a defect that could not be overcome by the endeavour and pride shown at White Hart Lane.

Their 37 goals from 38 Premier League fixtures did not suffice to nourish any sort of rally. While Roman Pavlyuchenko, striking for a second time, sent a drive into the top corner via the underside of the bar to deliver victory for Tottenham Hotspur in the last few seconds, results elsewhere meant that Birmingham would have tumbled from the top flight even if they had drawn 1-1.

Wolverhampton Wanderers would have stayed ahead by virtue of having scored more goals.

At times events in other fixtures appeared to promise deliverance, yet that also underlined the lack of attacking ability within Birmingham's ranks. They fought but ultimately were reduced to hoping that exploits at another ground would redeem them.

Even so the identity of the tormentor may be particularly galling. It took these goals to get Pavlyuchenko into double figures in the League season.

He was introduced to the action as early as the 40th minute after Peter Crouch had to leave the match following a blow to the cheek. All the same that, too, was a reminder that Tottenham have means beyond the imagination of McLeish.

While Harry Redknapp is prone to pointing at the relatively small budget of a club that had so bold a run in the Champions League, he looks flush with funds by comparison with his opposite number here. Despite the upsurge at Anfield he has kept Tottenham well clear of Liverpool for the time being and clinched the berth in the Europa League.

Few of his men are coveted fiercely. The injured Gareth Bale is a marked exception and Luka Modric plays some delightful football, but the mood of contentment at the close also pointed to exploits in the campaign that will be cherished.

The happiness of the crowd drew on memories, such as those forged in the heat of combat with the holders Internazionale in the Champions League.

Since sport is also local, nobody should discount the November win at Arsenal, when Tottenham were 2-0 behind with 27 minutes gone.

The trouble, of course, lies in the requirement that such moments be repeated if not outdone.

Tottenham, in truth, have been forced back ever so slightly. After all, the vista of the Champions League does not lie before them. In addition to that Liverpool may well recover some of their lost standing. And then there are Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City to contemplate.

Even so there could be no trace of fatalism at White Hart Lane when this match ended.

The losers had preserved self-respect even as the task proved beyond them. Birmingham showed resilience that demonstrates honour even in relegation. They came from 1-0 down to level with a splendid drive from Craig Gardner in the 79th minute. It was all to no avail. The White Hart Lane crowd frolicked but the deepest emotion was still Birmingham's despair.

They had never been under any illusions as to the jeopardy confronting them. The League Cup final was not long over when the victorious McLeish began to sound phlegmatic rather than euphoric. He was ready even then to think about the stiff challenge of preserving his squad in the top flight. Beating Arsenal at Wembley had, by comparison, been a brief diversion.

He had always known that there could be an afternoon such as this to come. Following that final Birmingham won only two of their 11 Premier League games before stepping into White Hart Lane. The suffering of the three clubs then below them would have been small reassurance for a manager waiting for his men to react to the growing adversity.

They did at least show resilience before half-time, although that also underlined the truth that Tottenham are an attractive side who nonetheless lack firepower. Crouch could not quite connect with a low cross from the left-back Danny Rose in the 22nd minute while, earlier, a 20-yarder from the Tottenham midfielder Sandro had been tipped over by Ben Foster.

By and large there had been no great conflict so long as each team was on course to achieve its aim. That altered, however, when a ball from Rose on the left came to Pavlyuchenko and he curled a finish into the far corner of the net after 49 minutes.

In the end Birmingham lacked the means to rescue themselves.