Blackburn are relegated, Wigan are safe, and a chicken runs on the pitch – all on one amazing night!
Pre-match ramble: Wigan are bang in form, having won five of their last seven games to drag themselves from the very cusp of disaster to the very brink of security. Blackburn are bang out of form, having lost six of their last seven games to slip from the very brink of security to the very cusp of disaster.
So these are the facts: If Wigan win, their Premier League status is secure for another season. If they draw, only a last-day goal-difference turnaround of quite ludicrous proportions will relegate them. If they lose it'll go to the final day, when they've got the most winnable fixture of any relegation-threatened side. They aren't yet safe, but they're not far off.
If Blackburn win, and then win again at Chelsea on Sunday, they might just avoid relegation. If they drop any points at all in either game, they are doomed.
The final-day relegation-region fixtures, for your information, look something like this:
Chelsea v Blackburn
Manchester City v QPR
Stoke v Bolton
Wigan v Wolves
Tonight's teams are in! And they look something like this. Quite a lot like this actually. Exactly like this, in fact.
Blackburn: Robinson, Orr, Dann, Givet, Martin Olsson, Hoilett, Dunn, Lowe, Pedersen, Modeste, Yakubu. Subs: Kean, Formica, Petrovic, Nzonzi, Rochina, Marcus Olsson, Goodwillie.
Wigan: Al Habsi, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa, Boyce, McArthur, McCarthy, Beausejour, Moses, Di Santo, Maloney. Subs: Pollitt, Crusat, Ben Watson, Gomez, Sammon, Rodallega, Diame.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
"I'm so excited for the Blackburn v Wigan MBM," writes Marc Howlett. Why thank you, Marc. "Really! I was vacationing in London seven years ago when Wigan got promoted. One of my favorite holiday activities reading newspapers. I enjoyed all of the 'Who are Wigan?' stories so much that I became an avid supporter. Seven years later, we're still in the Premier League. A win today will ensure our survival for another year. It's truly an astonishing feat for such a small club." I think most neutrals are hoping that Wigan stay up at the moment – they're run over the last month or so has been astonishing, and would have been even more so but for the poor performance of a linesman at Chelsea. Also Roberto Martinez deserves credit for not leaving for Aston Villa last summer, and the club for not sacking him last winter.
According to @06jsamsla on Twitter, Burnley fans have organised a plane with the banner 'Agent Kean: Mission Accomplished' to fly over Ewood tonight. That'll stoke things up nicely for next season's derby.
"Win or lose, stay up or go down, surely Steve Kean will not be in charge at Ewood Park next season," observes John Ainsworth. "The big question is which of the top clubs will be competing for his signature? Sir Alex can't go on for ever (and he has been gushing in his praise for Kean), Di Matteo is only a caretaker and if Mancini doesn't win the title will there be a vacancy at City?" Interesting, John. I would have thought that Roman Abramovich would pay millions to make sure he gets the job at Old Trafford – the kind of fundraising scheme that the Glazers would surely be very keen on.
The players are out. Kick-off comin' atcha!
1 min: Peeeeeeeeep! Wigan kick off, and immediately give the ball away.
3 mins: A high-tempo, highly scrappy opening. The plane carrying a message from Burnley fans has already passed Ewood Park – pictorial evidence attached.
4 mins: Dunn totally takes out Maloney. The ball breaks to Victor Moses, the referee waves play on and the shot flies over the bar. Dunn is lucky not to get booked for that.
6 mins: There's a chicken on the pitch! And it's wearing a Blackburn top!
7 mins: Wigan have started very well, repeatedly pushing down the left-hand side. The chicken has stopped play.
8 mins: Al Habsi has caught the chicken.
9 mins: CHANCE! Di Santo runs past two tackles and space opens up for him. He runs into the penalty area, but shoots, unchallenged, too close to Robinson. Should have done better there. "For the life of me I don't know why I have got out of bed at 4:45 on a cold morning to watch two teams I don't care about," complains Marty. "However, it occurred to me that if QPR stay up at the expense of Bolton, this will be the first time since 2002 that all three promoted teams avoided relegation. The three teams then were Bolton, Blackburn and Fulham. If Fulham were in place of Wolves, the symmetry would be complete!" Excellent stat action, Marty.
11 mins: "Kean out!" shout the Blackburn fans. And then "Oooooooh!", after Yakubu lays the ball off to Modeste, who attempts a Cissé-wondergoal-against-Chelsea-style effort with the outside of his right boot, but from the right flank. It's not on target.
12 mins: "Surely that was a fowl in the penalty area?" observes Jim Denvir, of the chicken.
15 mins: Wigan continue to threaten, though not by going so far as to have a genuinely dangerous shot. "As a resident of sunny Oman, I'd like to point out that since Wigan popped out to Al Habsi's homeland for a holiday in mid-Feb, they've picked up 18 points in 11 games at 1.63/game," writes Tony O'Connor. "Therefore, it's perfectly reasonable to suggest that if they'd come pre-season, they'd have 58 points and be sitting just below Chelsea. Martinez is a great manager, but leaving the squad's Omani vacation so late in the season was a massive tactical blunder."
16 mins: Notable chickens in football history No2: The 1986 Cup Winners' Cup final. Any more?
19 mins: Blackburn win a corner. Wigan are looking the better team here, but the home side aren't repeating their disastrous tactical howler from the Spurs game (namely, not ever trying to attack).
20 mins: Talking of which, a shot! Dunn's the man with it, though it's from a long way out and goes a long way over. Meanwhile, some more birds-in-football video action – duck!
21 mins: Dann fouls Moses just outside Blackburn's penalty area. The referee unaccountably waves play on.
22 mins: Wigan find Boyce in acres of space on the right wing, but his cross is right at Robinson. "Hopefully the chicken incident will lead to similarly symbolic protests at other clubs, based their owners' backgrounds," writes James Murton. "Ideally at Gold and Sullivan's West Ham."
24 mins: Moses somehow keeps the ball in on the left corner, somehow takes it past Scott Dann, and then shoots from an acute angle straight at Robinson. The ball's cleared for a corner. Here's video evidence of the Ewood chicken.
27 mins: Blackburn have a free-kick, fairly central, at least 35 yards out. It looks like Pedersen's going to shoot...
28 mins: Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! A rubbish shot flies miles over the bar.
30 mins: A third of the match gone, and the best that can be said of Blackburn is that they're not yet losing. Wigan have had the two best chances, and they were the best by a very long way. "Can't myself think of any chickens in football history, but you might want to get in touch with Robbie Fowler. He could probably point you in the right direction," offers Richard Hooker.
31 mins: Wigan send a right-wing free kick zooming to the back stick, where Di Santo heads it back across goal. The ball is heading straight into the path of Moses, eight yards out and readying for a tap-in, when Gary Caldwell gets a vital touch to divert it to safety. Yes, Wigan's Gary Caldwell. "Notable football chickens – does Glenn Cockerill count?" asks Mark Judd. Yes Mark, yes he does.
36 mins: Di Santo's delicious cross from the right finds Victor Moses, level with the back post. Though he may have been distracted by the onrushing Paul Robinson, he still looks a bit silly as he heads the ball actually away from goal. "Regarding animal protests, let us hope for the sake of the chickens that Leicester and Blackburn fans don't get the same idea during one of their games next season," writes Mark Elliott. "Perhaps the RSPCA should be on standby."
39 mins: I can't find any trace of a Blackburnchicken or Ewoodchicken account on Twitter yet, so it's lagging a long way behind the Anfieldcat of a few months back.
40 mins: Blackburn have a genuinely dangerous free kick now, just outside the penalty area on the right, a couple of yards from the byline. Pedersen, well, I'm sure it was a shot, that curled at high speed across goal and out again on the other side. A ludicrous, infuriating but not entirely unexpected decision. If I were his team-mate I'd spit in his tea.
43 mins: Another Moses header dribbles off target, though this was from relatively long range. "The Chicken is the colloquial name for a 1946college football game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers," writes Arthur Fooks. "The game is one of the most significant in the history of the Carolina-Clemson Rivalry, and its name is a reference to a halftime incident where a Clemson fan ran on the field and strangled a live chicken. A South Carolina cheerleader tried to rescue the chicken, but failed."
44 mins: David Dunn comes off with yet another injury, and Marcus Olsson replaces him.
45 mins: We'll have two minutes of stoppage time here. "I would say that making jokes about Robbie Fowler's surname (30 mins) puts Richard Hooker on very thin ice," writes Matt Dony.
45+2 mins: McArthur finds Maloney on the left of the penalty area, but his low cross is cleared. Marc Howlett points out the Twitter accounts @blackburnrooste (49 followers) and @EwoodParkChick4 (one follower).
45+3 mins: Peeeeeeeeeeep! It's half time, and Blackburn are lucky to reach this point without conceding. Can they man up and grab this game by the throat in the second period?
The players are back in the tunnel. No they're not – they're being taken back into their changing rooms! What's going on? Everyone looking confused. "I hope there's not something happening," says Gary Neville. Well yes. Or that something is happening, but it's a good thing.
Sky are reporting that there is "a situation with Gael Givet" and that paramedics have been called.
Now the players are out. So presumably nothing serious has happened. More news as I get it.
46 mins: Peeeeeeeeeeeep! They're off! Again! Radosav Petrovic has replaced Givet, who we're told is OK.
46 mins: There's a human on the pitch! Another human, I mean, in addition to the 23 who are supposed to be there. And now he's been taken away. Perhaps he was looking for a lost chicken.
47 mins: Pedersen's ludicrously optimistic shot clips McCarthy and goes for a corner. "The last time Blackburn got relegated (in 1999) was on a miserable weekday evening kick-off, drawing 0-0 at home to a team from the Northwest (okay, it was United and not Wigan)," writes Ryan Sharpe. "The same year witnessed a Champions League final between Bayern Munich and an English team that had been pronounced dead and buried in the semis. God has a wicked sense of humour."
50 mins: Al Habsi does very well to claim Pedersen's long free-kick before (I think) Dann got there first.
53 mins: McArthur turns cleverly and lays the ball off to Modeste, whose shot is deflected high. Wigan continue to press. "Wigan's recent success has been built on a sort of 3 5 2 formation with wingbacks (for want of a better description) pushing on forward and yet it appears that Steve Kean, in his mercurial wisdom, has decided to play a narrow midfield three," writes Christopher Lee from Ewood Park. "Is that as daft as I think it is?" Yes, unless Blackburn win.
54 mins: CHANCE FOR BLACKBURN! The home side counter, and win a corner which is lifted high beyond the back post. Dann heads the ball back across, and Yakubu turns it towards goal from five yards but hits Beausejour. There's hope for them yet!
55 mins: Unbelievably rubbish long-range shot of the day award goes to Victor Moses, whose effort is sent so wide that Blackburn win a throw in 15 yards from their goal line.
57 mins: Beausejour crosses from the left, Di Santo nods the ball down, and Moses volleys high and wide. A decent chance, that.
59 mins: Merry news: not only is Gael Givet not in mortal danger, he's sitting on the Blackburn bench looking happy as a lamb in spring.
60 mins: Penalty area pinball madness! Blackburn have the ball in Sigan's penalty area. McCarthy misses his kick, and just as Hoilett ran on to the loose ball, Boyce kicked him in the back of the shin. I'm sure he meant to kick the ball, but he didn't, and that was surely a penalty.
61 mins: Givet suffered nothing more than a hamstring strain.
62 mins: An enormous chorus of "We want Venky's out" echoes around the stadium as Wigan prepare to take a throw-in.
64 mins: Caldwell misses the ball, and for a moment Yakubu looks set to scoot through on goal. But then Alcaraz saves the day with an excellent intervention. Blackburn are coming into this, you know.
65 mins: Di Santo has the ball, central, 40 yards from goal. McCarthy is running into oceans of space to his right. He tries a ludicrously optimistic shot.
67 mins: Maloney is running towards the penalty area and thinking about shooting, when Pedersen takes him out and earns a yellow card. "Am in a pub called The Bridge in Burnley and we all think Kean should be given a chance next season," writes Martin Austin. "In fact there about 25 blokes singing 'Stevie Kean, we want you to stay!'"
69 mins: It's always been raining, but it looks like it's progressed from a bit of drizzle to genuinely chucking down. @EwoodChick seems to be winning the Twitter chicken wars, with 191 followers.
71 mins: OK, 20 minutes left to play, Wigan doing most of the attacking. This is do or die time for Blackburn, surely?
71 mins: Moses bursts into the penalty area, goes down over Pedersen's leg and is booked for diving, quite rightly I think.
72 mins: Wigan continue to find lots of space on the wings, particularly when switching the ball quickly from one side to the other, but their crossing hasn't been up to much, as a rule.
75 mins: Looks like the reason why the referee didn't give Blackburn a penalty in the 60th minute was that Marcus Olsson was standing right in front of him and he couldn't see a thing.
77 mins: Wigan continue to shoot optimistically whenever they're within 25 yards of goal – Di Santo with the latest rubbish effort – while Blackburn continue to not do very much, and most of what they do do they don't do very well. The clock is ticking.
78 mins: Hoilett's shot is going wide, and Al Habsi should have either left it or caught it. But he lets it slip out of his grasp and wide for a corner.
80 mins: The conditions are making life very difficult for the goalkeepers. Martin Olsson gets to the byline on the left wing and sends in a low cross which Al Habsi grabs at the second attempt. Blackburn immediately bring Goodwillie, a striker, on for Orr, a defender.
81 mins: Penalty area ping pong! McCarthy finds Moses, who turns and shoots. Robinson can't hold it, McCarthy is first to the loose ball, and he shoots. Robinson still can't hold it, Moses is first to the loose ball, but Robinson eventually smothers.
83 mins: CHANCE FOR WIGAN! Boyce crosses from the right wing, Maloney rises all alone but the ball loops off his head and over the bar. That was a very, very good chance.
85 mins: Substitution: Wigan replace Franco Di Santo with Conor Sammon. Five minutes to go, Blackburn. Whatcha gonna do about it?
86 mins: Moses pings the ball across the box and it's only just too far ahead of Sammon. Four minutes to go.
GOAL! BLACKBURN 0 WIGAN 1 (Alcaraz, 87 mins) Bye bye Blackburn! Wigan win a corner, and no one tracks Alcaraz's two-yard movement. Robinson gets a hand to the header, but can't keep it out.
88 mins: Modeste, who has been pretty much invisible all night, skies a shot from 20 yards.
89 mins: Moses, who has worked like a trojan and run like a whippet, is brought down. Blackburn are ending this season with a whimper.
90+1 mins: We're into the first of three minutes of stoppage time. Marcus Olsson celebrates by looping a cross straight out of play.
90+3 mins: They may be terrible owners, but Venky's have got the Blackburn crowd singing. I've not heard atmosphere like this at Ewood for years. Another chorus of "We want Venky's out!" rings around the ground.
90+4 mins: Peeeeeeeep! It's all over! Wigan are safe, and Blackburn have gone!
There's a minor pitch invasion in progress. Sky are talking about how unpleasant it is, and to be fair they are actually there, but I can't see anyone doing anything particularly untoward. "As an Arsenal fan I can't help but feel pleased for the 200 or so Wigan fans who came to watch them spank us a month ago," writes Tom Atkins. "After making that journey on a Monday night for what at that stage looked like a lost cause they deserve this, and more next season."
"There was a couple of them throwing things towards the dug-out and towards the players," reports Gary Neville of the pitch invaders. This isn't good, obviously, but Paul Robinson spent quite some time out there, with a camera following his every move, and was the victim of nothing more than a hearty pat on the back.
So the relegation scrap comes down to this: can Bolton beat Stoke on Sunday? If they do, then they have a very good chance of overtaking QPR, who are at Manchester City. If they don't, they're doomed.
So Blackburn flunked this fight, but it looks like there will be bigger battles to come at Ewood Park. They might not have a great team right now, but they're a proper club. I wish them the future they deserve.
As for Wigan, they've got nothing to worry about, not for another year at least. "It's a great feeling," says Roberto Martínez. "You could feel the tension. It was a cagey affair, but to have that determination, to keep a clean sheet away from home, and then the end of it, it was incredible. These players deserve so much credit. What we had to do in the last 13 games was a tough, tough job, believe me." I believe you, Bobby.