Sam Allardyce's determination to fight his corner has clearly not been blunted by his mid-season appointment with a surgeon, nor by the indifference Premier League clubs now habitually show to the FA Cup's early rounds.
In a tepid tie that was nevertheless high on talking points, the forthright Blackburn Rovers manager found a curious main topic for debate with the loss of El-Hadji Diouf for tomorrow night's second part of the January cup trilogy with Aston Villa.
The petulant forward made a slow, kiss-blowing departure just before half-time for a two-footed lunge into the back of his Senegalese compatriot Habib Beye and will miss the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Ewood Park, and possibly the return if the FA takes a dim view of his delay in leaving the pitch.
Allardyce questioned Howard Webb's straight red card, insisting that the official couldn't have seen the assault properly. "He will have to battle with himself over that one," he said. "Did he really see Dioufy do what he says he did? There were players in the way." It seemed an unusual logic to apply over a decision that was palpably correct, however it was reached.
Villa, leading against 11 men through headed goals by Nathan Delfouneso and Carlos Cuellar from pinpoint crosses by the excellent Ashley Young, won relatively comfortably despite the jolt their keeper Brad Guzan gave them by gifting Nikola Kalanic a goal early in the second half. John Carew eventually rolled one in at the other end, ensuring the scoreline offered a truer reflection of the match.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Guzan; Beye, Collins, Cuellar, Warnock; Downing, Reo-Coker, Delph (Sidwell, 45), A Young; Heskey, Delfouneso (Carew, 75). Substitutes not used: Friedel (gk), L Young, Dunne, Albrighton, Petrov.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Brown; Chimbonda, Jones, Givet, Olsson; Salgado (Rigters, 76), Dunn (Khizanishvili, 55), Reid, Diouf; Di Santo (Pedersen, 45), Kalinic. Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Doran, Hoilett, Gunning.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Aston Villa Reo-Coker; Blackburn Salgado.
Sent off: Blackburn Diouf (42).
Man of the match: Young.