Antolin Alcaraz headed a late winner as Wigan condemned Blackburn to relegation and ensured their own Barclays Premier League survival last night.
The Latics defender powered in from a corner with four minutes remaining as the visitors completed their remarkable survival act and delivered the final blow to Rovers’ miserable season.
Blackburn supporters, perhaps already resigned to their fate, had turned the game into one long protest against manager Steve Kean and owners Venky’s and several invaded the pitch at the final whistle.
A live chicken had been released early in the game, presumably in protest against Indian poultry company Venky’s, whose takeover in 2010 is pinpointed by many as the start of the club’s demise.
The hen, draped in Rovers’ colours, walked around Ali Al Habsi’s goal area before it was caught by the Wigan goalkeeper and Blackburn striker Ayegbeni Yakubu and carried away by a steward.
By then there had already been several anti-Kean and Venky’s chants from the supporters.
On a worrying note, Gael Givet, who has a heart condition, left the action at half-time amid rumours of further problems but he was seen soon after taking a seat in the stand.
What action there was saw Wigan do the early attacking with Franco di Santo bursting clear only to shoot straight at former Leeds United goalkeeper Paul Robinson.
Di Santo then fired over with another effort after a good knockdown by Jean Beausejour.
For Blackburn, Junior Hoilett blasted over and then briefly excited with a mazy run before shooting tamely at Al Habsi.
David Dunn failed to trouble the goalkeeper with an optimistic long-range effort before James McCarthy sparked a good Wigan counter-attack which ended when Robinson claimed Emmerson Boyce’s cross.
When Morten Gamst Pedersen smashed a free-kick from wide on the right straight through the box it seemed Rovers fans were ready to give up. “That’s why we’re going down,” they sang.
Rovers were unlucky not to be awarded a second-half penalty after Boyce appeared to kick Hoilett’s standing leg as he prepared to shoot.
Their chagrin was compounded when Alcaraz timed his leap superbly to power a header goalwards which Robinson, despite a valiant effort, could not palm out.