Birmingham head coach Lee Bowyer refused to claim his side are safe despite going nine points clear of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Stoke.
Blues made it 10 points from Bowyer’s five games in charge since he replaced Aitor Karanka after this victory moved them up to 18th with five matches left to play this season.
But third-bottom Rotherham still have four games in hand on them – two before they play Birmingham in eight days’ time and all at home – leading Bowyer to sound a cautionary note.
“We are not safe. There’s a lot of football to go – 15 points to play for,” he said.
“We are only nine points in front of them and they have got four games in hand. And we have got to play them – that’s our next game.
“We have given ourselves a chance. If we keep putting performances in like that and keep picking up points, we should be OK but we can’t get away from what’s getting us to this situation.”
Bowyer added: “It was a very professional performance.
“Defensively we looked solid. Whenever they asked questions they dealt with it. It was very good from start to finish.”
Lukas Jutkiewicz’s brace made it 50 in the league for the club to give Blues their third successive home win for the first time since October 2019, while a third straight clean sheet was a first for them in just over three years.
Jutkiewicz broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute with a tremendous header from a deep cross from Marc Roberts.
Burly striker Jutkiewicz rifled home in the 53rd minute after goalkeeper Adam Davies failed to hold a 25-yard curling effort from half-time substitute Riley McGree.
The 32-year-old striker was not starting under Karanka but Bowyer said: “He’s always going to score goals in this division if you give him the right service and opportunity to score goals.
“I’m pleased for him because he worked so hard up there.”
Stoke’s slump continued as they made it six defeats in their last 10 games.
Until Blues scored, Michael O’Neill’s side looked the more likely scorers.
But John Obi Mikel and Rhys Norrington-Davies missed chances while Steven Fletcher had an effort ruled out for offside.
O’Neill said: “We started well and the one disallowed was a very tight offside but then we switched off.
“With the throw-in, we expected it long and they threw it short – the other 500 throw-ins have been long.
“We didn’t defend the cross either and we’ve got to block the runner.
“For the second goal, we didn’t get out to the ball – it was a poor defensive header, Adam (Davies) spilled the shot and they scored off the rebound.”
O’Neill also criticised the officials, claiming they allowed Blues to waste time.
“The officials allowed the game to go so slowly,” he said.
“They have a responsibility to keep the game flowing but their right centre back was going to the far left-hand side to take throw-ins at a very slow pace.”
O’Neill also claimed the law on throw-ins should be altered, despite having former long throw-in expert and Stoke coach Rory Delap next to him in the dugout.
“Personally I think they should change the rule and it should be offside from a throw-in and it would stop that,” he said.