West Brom produced a smash-and-grab raid to take all three points from a drab 1-0 win against struggling Plymouth at Home Park.
Albion were second best for large parts in a lacklustre Coca-Cola Championship encounter that lacked quality throughout on a difficult playing surface.
The hosts, who saw a winding-up order against them dropped by the High Court in midweek, enjoyed the better of a first half that failed to produce any clear-cut chances.
But, in a second half that also failed to really get going, the division's lowest scorers were made to pay for their lack of spark in attack as a marginally improved West Brom side snatched all three points courtesy of Simon Cox's close-range volley.
Graham Dorrans missed his fifth spot-kick in five games late on but Albion held firm to maintain their one-point advantage over third-placed Nottingham Forest, despite the 91st-minute dismissal of Jerome Thomas.
Meanwhile, Plymouth were left to feel sorry for themselves in their battle against the drop.
Having named the same starting XI for the previous five games, Albion head coach Roberto Di Matteo rested key trio Jonas Olsson, Gonzalo Jara and Robert Koren as he made four changes. Marek Cech also missing out with a hamstring injury.
Damien Johnson, meanwhile, was handed his Pilgrims debut having completed a deadline-day switch from Birmingham.
And with Johnson in midfield it was the hosts who started the stronger with a definite spring in their step, Alan Judge seeing his goalbound effort well blocked by Baggies left-back Joe Mattock.
Albion remained on the back foot although centre-back Gabriel Tamas headed a good chance wide from Dorrans' corner after 18 minutes.
The bobbly Home Park pitch was certainly affecting the visitors' attempts to play their usual passing game but, in truth, there was very little quality on display during the opening half-hour.
Roman Bednar, with five goals in the last six games, produced a rare moment of class as he skipped past Kari Arnason with ease before forcing a superb stretched save from Plymouth keeper David Stockdale.
A lacklustre opening 45 minutes drew to a predictably goalless close, however Plymouth should have broken the deadlock four minutes after the restart.
Arnason's long throw found its way to Jamie Mackie in the area but he volleyed over from eight yards when he really should have done better.
With Baggies centre-back Abdoulaye Meite still fortunate to be on the pitch following a serious of offences in the first half, Mattock could also count himself lucky to only see yellow for a shocking challenge on Johnson.
Paul Mariner turned to fellow new boy Kenny Cooper in a bid to inspire a breakthrough but it was Albion who did just that with 66 minutes on the clock.
Bednar managed to get on the end of a ball pumped into the area and he knocked the ball down for Cox to thunder a volley home.
Dorrans was presented with a great chance to wrap things up in the 83rd minute when David McNamee brought down fellow substitute Luke Moore, but his penalty was easily saved by Stockdale.
Tensions then boiled over in injury time as Thomas was shown red for a foul on McNamee, sparking a huge melee.
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