Ten-man West Ham United fell to a frustrating 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat by Birmingham City in an action-packed game at St Andrews.
A pulsating contest was settled by former Hammer Lee Bowyer, who slipped the ball past Robert Green seven minutes after half-time to score the only goal of the game.
West Ham's misery was compounded 12 minutes from full-time when Mark Noble was sent-off for a second bookable offence after bringing down Christian 'Chucho' Benitez.
Earlier the Ecuador forward had played a vital role in Bowyer's winner, taking the ball from team-mate Cameron Jerome before sliding a pass through to the ex-England midfielder.
In a game that featured no fewer than six yellow cards to go with Noble's red, it was something of a miracle that only one goal was scored, such was the number of chances that were created by both teams.
Substiute Kieron Dyer came closest to snatching a deserved point for the Hammers, running 40 yards before seeing his shot bounce back off the inside of Joe Hart's far post.
While it remained goalless, the first half was far from short on incident, with both teams creating a series of decent chances to break the deadlock.
Just three-and-a-half minutes in, Robert Green showed why he is in the running to become England's No1 goalkeeper, making two superb saves within the space of five seconds to deny Roger Johnson and Liam Ridgewell.
The chances came from a Sebastian Larsson corner, one of eight flag-kicks forced by the Blues during the opening 45 minutes.
West Ham recovered from Birmingham's early barrage, however, and it was not long before Zola's side were threatening Hart's goal.
It was Alessandro Diamanti, recalled to the starting lineup in place of the injured Zavon Hines for the first time since the trip to Stoke City on 17 October, and Junior Stanislas who went closest for the visitors.
Sixteen minutes had passed when Stanislas picked up the ball wide on the left before cutting inside and working Hart with a well-struck shot that the goalkeeper could only grab at the second attempt.
Then, just past the half-hour mark, Diamanti showed exactly what he is capable of twice in a minute.
First, the Italian skipped past three Birmingham players before unleashing a low drive that flew inches past Hart's near post and into the side-netting. Seconds later, Diamanti took Guille Franco's knock-down before curling a teasing shot a yard wide.
The first-half action was not over, however, as Green had to be alert to deny Benitez twice after the forward had stolen in behind the Hammers back four.
Finally, just moments before the break, Jerome somehow headed Ridgewell's left-wing cross over when it appeared easier to score from six yards.
Into the second period and the chances kept coming at both ends, and Benitez had already had a goal ruled out for offside before Bowyer put the Blues ahead on 52 minutes.
Birmingham went close to doubling their lead nine minutes later, only for Green to superbly turn aside Jerome's well-struck shot from an angle.
Zola sent on substitutes Dyer and Jack Collison with 25 minutes remaining, and the pair made an immediate impact. Just two minutes after his arrival, Dyer picked up the ball, ran 40 yards and sent in a shot that bounced back off the far post before being hacked clear.
As the frustration grew within the visitors, Noble was booked for dissent after Tomkins had been penalised. Five minutes, the midfielder was made to rue his earlier transgression, being sent-off after bringing down Benitez near the halfway line.
Despite being reduced to ten, West Ham pressed hard for an equaliser, with Diamanti curling a free-kick narrowly over the top and Parker seeing his goalbound shot deflected wide of the target.
All in all, the Hammers had given everything but came up just short on their travels. Zola and his players will hope for better reward at Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday evening.