Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Paul Lambert believes his side must acknowledge they are in for a fight after slipping to a fifth successive defeat in all competitions to 10-man Birmingham City.
Maikel Kieftenbeld and David Davis' first-half goals, within just five minutes of each other, handed Wolves' West Midlands rivals the advantage despite the home side enjoying the better of the first 25 minutes.
Paul Robinson's red card and Nouha Dicko's goal from the bench, with just over 15 minutes remaining, offered hope but Wolves could not muster an equaliser as they slipped to another loss.
This leaves them just five points above the Championship relegation zone, albeit with two games in hand on 22nd-placed Wigan Athletic, and Lambert called for his side to rally together until the end of the season.
Lambert pulls no punches after disappointing derby defeat
He said after defeat: "Like everybody, we knew we were in a fight. We know there are a lot of teams in a fight. You have to realise what you’re involved in. I’m a realist. We can’t keep dominating games and coming away with nothing. That has to stop.
"I think the balls are going across that goal-mouth, we just need to get people in there. I’m glad Nouha scored. It gives him a little bit of confidence. That’s his first goal in a long while so hopefully he can go on a run.
"I think we’ve got enough to stay up. We’ve a really talented group when they’re on song. Sometimes when you go through these things, you grow stronger.
"If you ask me, they’re strong enough to get through it. I’ve got no concerns with that. But what I want the players to realise is that they’re in a fight. To fight, you make sure you get out of it. If they keep doing what they’re doing and finish off that work, hopefully we’ll be fine.
Goalkeeper Carl Ikeme's error handed Birmingham an unlikely lead, when he dropped Craig Gardner's cross into the path of Kieftenbeld to finish before Davis doubled the lead on 32 minutes.
Lambert added: "I think you have to be street-wise. It’s not an individual blame game, I’ve never been like that as a manager or as a player. We win together, we lose together.
"But you have to really realise what you’re involved in. This is a great club with a great fan base and a great play to play here. You’ve got to do the right things. Everything you’ve got to do is right, be professional and you’ll come through it. If we can stick together and battle through it, we’ll go through it all."
Wolves cannot afford to think they're safe, warns the manager
The Scot admitted that while their position looks healthy now, they must be wary of complacency.
"It can creep up on you," he continued. "When you’re above the [relegation zone] line, people think ‘oh we’re okay we’re above the line’ and everybody thinks you’re okay but you’re not okay.
"If you think ‘everything’s great we’re above the line’, it’s not. You have to be really aware of everyone around you. You have to eat, sleep and drink it to make sure you’re never in this position again.
"I wouldn’t say that [Wolves are in a relegation battle], but you’re in a fight obviously. There’s going to be loads of teams involved in that. Look at the table, it’s really tight but you’re in a fight. That’s the message.
"They can do it because they’ve done it against the bigger teams, even against Chelsea here. When you’re at home, the onus is on you to attack.
"I wouldn’t sit here and be defensive, it’s not a club that plays that way and we don’t have the players to play that way. We’re an attacking side and I’ll still try and go and win games. That’s the way we’ll play.
"The second-half is a positive. We dominated. Nouha coming back and scoring a goal was a bonus for him as well. As a team we have to really start to win, that’s the main concern."
First-half was a 'nearly half' laments Lambert
Lambert particularly pinpointed Wolves' lacklustre first-half performance, in which he felt their final product from out wide was disappointing.
"I called it a nearly half, but a nearly you may as well be a country mile if you’re nearly there and not on it," the Wolves boss said.
"First-half it was one of those derby games where the ball is in the air a lot and it’s going back and forward with nothing really happening in the goalmouth and then they get the goal from the cross and then the second goal and you think ‘we have to get them in here before it’s too late.’
"Second-half, you get them in and have a word with them, to be fair we changed the system a little bit and they came out second-half and Nouha gets a goal. Then you think ‘keep going wide against 10 men’ because that’s the way to beat 10 men.
"I don’t think we picked up enough second balls and the delivery wasn’t good from wide areas. Delivery wasn’t good enough in the last third of the pitch, we lost the second balls too easy.
"We’re at our best when we play higher up and we play with a flow and try to move it and get it wide and play with intensity. It’s a hard game for Jon Dadi Bödvarsson, it’s in the air sometimes.
"But Championship football is like that, especially in a derby where you have to earn the right and I don’t think we did that enough in that first-half."
Hause and Graham disciplined for unknown infraction
Defender Kortney Hause was not included in the match-day 18 and Lambert later revealed that the England youth international, and winger Jordan Graham, were both disciplined.
Hause was one of Wolves' best performers as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Premier League leaders Chelsea in a battling performance the previous weekend.
Explaining his absence, Lambert told reporters: "The situation with Kortney and Jordan Graham is that they’ve been disciplined by the club. They let themselves down, they let the fans down, they let me down, they let their teammates down. That’s the end of it.
"It’s a discipline by the club. It’s an incident that’s finished. It’s the two of them that have been disciplined. I won’t let that happen to the club. It’s disappointing, really disappointing. Jordan’s just come back from injury and Kortney will be in contention for the next game."