ALBION'S proud ten-month unbeaten home league record was finally ended by moneybags Manchester City, as Mario Balotelli struck two first-half goals before being sent off for violent conduct after the break.
The Baggies struggled to get going in the first 45 against a City side who shook off three successive defeats to surge two ahead through Italian starlet Balotelli's first Barclays Premier League goals in the 19th and 27th minutes.
But Albion regrouped after the break and twice hit the woodwork - either side of Balotelli's afternoon coming to a premature end on 63 for allegedly kicking out at Youssouf Mulumbu.
Sadly, DR Congo international Mulumbu's afternoon was also cut short, becoming the third player Albion to be dismissed in two games for a second bookable offence on 83.
Marek Cech made his first Barclays Premier League appearance in almost three months as Roberto Di Matteo rang one enforced change.
The Slovakia international, who returned from a long-term metatarsal injury in last week's Carling Cup victory at Leicester, slotted in at left-back, with Nicky Shorey shifting to the other wing in place of the suspended Gonzalo Jara.
Albion were also boosted by the return of Peter Odemwingie to the bench after a one-month knee-injury lay off.
City boss Roberto Mancini made three changes as Pablo Zabaleta, Carlos Tevez and Nigel De Jong replaced Micah Richards, James Milner and Emmanuel Adebayor.
The Baggies showed their support for this year's Poppy Appeal by wearing shirts featuring embroidered poppies, which will be auctioned off this week in aid of the Royal British Legion.
The players and officials were also joined in the centre circle before kick off by TS Albion sea cadets plus army cadets from the Mercian force to observe a minute's silence in memory of British Armed Forces members who have died while serving their country.
Albion put the City goal under early pressure and Marc-Antoine Fortune slipped Chris Brunt through in the third minute.
As the Northern Ireland international nudged the ball onto his left, Kolo Toure intercepted but directed it goalwards and the scrambling Joe Hart was relieved to see it creep wide of his left-hand post.
City were the next to threaten but Tevez was way off target with an ambitious 25-yard drive.
However, the big-spending visitors gradually began to peg back Albion and after Tevez had seen a shot blocked by Shorey, Zabaleta pounced on the loose ball and whistled a ferocious 30-yard drive just past the left-hand post.
Pablo Ibanez, eligible for this fixture after having Monday's red card at Blackpool rescinded, then did well to divert Tevez's snapshot in the box wide for a corner.
But City made their pressure count on 19.
David Silva fed Tevez in the box who whipped in a low cross and Balotelli slid the ball past Carson.
City immediately pressed for a second goal and when Yaya Toure threaded in Silva, it took a fine reflex save by Carson to keep out the Spaniard.
Albion rallied briefly and Fortune came within a whisker of connecting with Brunt's terrific centre at the far post.
But it was 2-0 in the 27th minute.
Silva chipped to the edge of the Baggies box and Balotelli outmuscled Gabriel Tamas before clinically sweeping the ball into the far corner.
City's recent troubles seemed well and truly behind them when Tevez curled a 25-yard free kick just over in the 33rd minute.
Albion did not threaten again until the 37th minute when Ibanez's header from Brunt's free-kick was easily gathered by Hart.
That proved the final action of a below-par half from the Baggies.
The second half took an age to get going but it was City who created the first opening when only Jerome Boateng's poor first touch from Silva's through-ball denied him a one-on-one chance with Carson.
Albion dramatically stirred into life on 54 when Simon Cox unleashed a terrific 25-yard effort which crashed against the inside of the post and bounced to safety.
Moments later, Paul Scharner was just off target with a header from Brunt's corner.
After playing with nine men on Monday, it was Albion's turn to have a one-man advantage when Balotelli was shown a straight red card on 63 for kicking out at Mulumbu.
City had an amazing let off on 66 when Vincent Kompany directed Brunt's corner towards his own net and Silva denied the Baggies a certain goal by hooking the ball off the goalline, onto the bar and out to safety.
There was a strong hint that the ball had crossed the line before Silva connected, but Albion's appeals for a goal were turned down by the officials.
Moments later, Hart pulled off a wonderful finger-tipped save to keep out Shorey's 25-yard free-kick.
Albion were now well on top and Scharner directed a great headed chance wide from sub Giles Barnes' pinpoint centre.
City then caught the Baggies on the break and it took two last-ditch challenges from Ibanez and Cox to deny Yaya Toure and Tevez.
Back came Albion and Mulumbu saw a chest-and-volleyed effort from 20 yards fly just over.
The game was ebbing and flowing and this time it was Barnes, playing as a makeshift right-back, who had to intervene to prevent Gareth Barry adding a third.
But Albion's hopes of an unlikely comeback were nipped in the bud seven minutes from time when Mulumbu was dismissed for a second bookable offence after catching Tevez late.
The Baggies threatened one final time when former City striker Ishmael Miller, who had come on for Scharner, was fed in the box by Thomas, but he was unable to keep his shot on the turn on target.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Carson; Shorey, Ibanez, Tamas, Cech (Barnes 60); Mulumbu, Scharner (Miller 80); Brunt, Cox, Thomas; Fortune (Odemwingie 60). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Reid, Dorrans, Tchoyi.
CITY (4-2-3-1): Hart; Boateng, K Toure, Kompany, Zabaleta (Kolarov 88); De Jong, Barry; Silva (Johnson 68), Y Toure, Balotelli; Tevez. Subs not used: Given (gk), Richards, Vieira, Milner, Adebayor.
GOALS: CITY - Balotelli (19 & 27).
BOOKINGS: ALBION - Mulumbu (unsporting behaviour 63), Brunt (foul 88), Ibanez (foul 90+4). CITY - De Jong (deliberate handball 6), Barry (foul 42), Balotelli (dissent 60).
RED CARDS: ALBION - Mulumbu (foul, second bookable offence, 83). CITY - Balotelli (violent conduct 63).
REFEREE: L Probert (Gloucestershire).
ALBION STARMAN: Jerome Thomas.