Birmingham City 1 Manchester City 2
Following his second-half escapades in Denmark in midweek James was obviously fully prepared and gave a solid professional performance with his second-half save from Julian Gray the highlight of his display.
But it was veteran striker Andy Cole who took the Manchester City honours with his second-half match-winning goal.
Only two days previously Birmingham's manager, Steve Bruce, had given a warning not to underestimate his former Manchester United colleague.
It proved to be fully justified as Cole inspired Manchester City's first win of the season as he formed an effective striking partnership with a seemingly revitalised Darius Vassell.
The visitors had to come back after trailing to a seventh minute goal from Nicky Butt which raised false hopes of a Birmingham success.
Butt, incidentally, carried on from where he left off last season. His previous goal was scored against Birmingham at St Andrew's and once again his latest effort was blasted in at the Railway End.
It was certainly a timely goal following an electric start. Cole flicked a header against Birmingham's bar in the fifth minute a couple of minutes after James had saved a point-blank effort from Walter Pandiani.
But Birmingham played with an attacking commitment and mounted a raid down the left where Gray outpaced Danny Mills to provide a lofted cross to the far post where the ball bounced off Pandiani and out to the lurking Butt.
The Newcastle United player, on loan at Birmingham until the end of the season, quickly took aim and rifled in a powerful shot which James was powerless to stop despite getting a hand to the ball.
Better finishing on the part of Jermaine Pennant should have increased Birmingham's advantage but the youngster guided a low shot wide of the far post following an accurate cross from Mikael Forssell.
It proved to be a crucial miss as the persistent new-look Manchester City continually pressed forward with an eagle eye for an opening.
It was Vassell who made a strong by-line challenge against goalkeeper Maik Taylor which resulted in the ball running loose into the path of Joey Barton who notched the 20th minute equaliser.
The industry of Barton kept Manchester City on the boil and in control of the midfield to keep the game very much on an even keel in the first half.
The visitors built upon this confidence-boosting feature and took full advantage of some indifferent defending to take the lead two minutes into the second half.
Trevor Sinclair had acres of space on the right to provide a cross which Cole coolly controlled before hammering a low left-foot cross-shot into the net.
In sharp contrast Forssell and Pandiani struggled to gel as a striking force against the rugged Richard Dunne and Stephen Jordan.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Andy Cole (Manchester City) - Quickly made himself a favourite with the visiting fans with his match-winning performance. He scored a superb goal to show he is far from a spent force in the Premiership.