On the night, a wet and gloomy one, there was little between the two sides but everything between the two managers and the two sets of supporters.
Roberto Martínez is running a happy camp, having talked a much better game all season than Wigan were actually playing, but crucially he has come through with results and performances when it mattered. Steve Kean has also stretched the credulity of his local audience with his pronouncements and promises this season, although the Blackburn manager ran out of goodwill many months ago. His team merely confirmed supporters' worst suspicions by producing their worst sequence of results just when it looked as though they had given themselves a chance of climbing away from trouble.
Rovers fans have been convinced all season that they are going down – they avoided the drop only on the last day last time – and when it became certain the atmosphere was one of defeated resignation. Though Ewood has almost boiled over with anger and bitter hostility on occasions this season, this was not one of those nights. No one could mistake the home crowd for a cheery band of pilgrims, or possibly run away with the idea that they admire Venky's or their choice of manager. It was just that the protests were more intense and passionate when there was still a chance of changing something.
Now it is too late, a point perhaps unintentionally made by a pitch invader at the start of the second half, who milked the crowd's applause by making his way to the technical area and ostentatiously hurling his season ticket towards Kean. He actually dropped it at Martínez's feet, yet making such a sacrifice at the last home game of the season was already an empty gesture.
Perhaps he was objecting to the manager's unusual line in motivational messages. "We must do all we can to ensure the Wigan team bus is a very quiet and subdued place on the way home," Kean said quite bizarrely beforehand. Another target missed.
Apart from Martínez refusing to toast success with anything stronger than water, the Wigan coach home must have been a party all the way. "It is time to celebrate," he said. "An eighth Premier League season is a remarkable achievement for this club." This is the time of year when the tough get going, and Wigan got going some weeks ago. It was the home side, extending a dreadful run to seven defeats in eight games, whose excursions have been ending in the sound of silence.
Not that Ewood has known anything as soothing as silence all season. The "Kean Out" chants began before kick-off and intensified once the game got under way. The home fans in the Ronnie Clayton Blackburn end led a noisy chorus of "There's only one lying bastard" just a couple of minutes after kick-off, following up for good measure with "Stand up if you hate Venky's". Wigan supporters, as Dave Whelan noted last week, have never called for Martínez's dismissal despite the most trying of mid-season losing runs, and high in the Darwen End contented themelves with the boast: "We are staying up", as if anyone from Blackburn was about to argue.
"Bobby, Bobby give us a wave," the Wigan fans tried next, and Martínez duly did. It must be some time since the Rovers manager has been asked the same thing, if indeed he ever has been, and when a section of the home support ironically offered the invitation moments later Kean wisely kept his hands in his pockets.
The game was briefly held up in the first half for a fowl in the Wigan penalty area. Yakubu Ayegbeni and Ali Al-Habsi were the first to pluck up courage to tackle the feathered intruder while a gaggle of stewards stood by and watched, possibly in agreement with the anti-Venky's protest but more likely thinking up chicken-based puns like everyone else.
By the halfway stage Wigan could have been a goal or two up but for Paul Robinson's goalkeeping. As long as the game remained scoreless the Ewood crowd seemed reluctant to unleash the full force of their fury towards the team, though plenty of chants continued to be aimed at Kean, "He's taking us down" being about the most charitably polite. As half-time approached, in a startling contrast of moods for two teams at the wrong end of the table, the Wigan fans could be heard working on a jolly and adventurous rendition of "I'm a believer" while the Blackburn supporters at the same end lamented the lack of shots on target and greeted a wasted Morten Gamst Pedersen free-kick with an impassioned: "That's why we're going down."
Four minutes from the end Antolín Alcaraz made sure there was to be no escape for Rovers. Cue boos, walkouts and more anti-Kean chants, but nothing out of the ordinary, unless you count the sight of Wigan supporters celebrating before the final day of the season. There was a pitch invasion at the end but it was tiny, only a couple of dozen disgruntled and remarkably well-behaved fans. The vast majority just lingered in their seats, as if taking a last look at Premier League football or reflecting on the habit of chickens of coming home to roost. Blackburn's strongish claims for a second-half penalty when Emmerson Boyce appeared to trip Junior Hoilett got a mention at Kean's press conference yet made no impression on Wigan. But for Pedersen getting away with an outrageous corner kick scam to earn a draw at the DW in November, Blackburn might not have lasted this long.
What comes around and so on. Blackburn's fate appears to have been coming around for some time. The battle has been lost, seemingly along with East Lancashire's stomach for an argument.