Sir Alex Ferguson desperately requires Wigan Athletic to stop Chelsea from winning on Sunday yet Roberto Martinez, the youngest manager in the top tier, could struggle to do the most successful manager in Premier League history a favour if yesterday's events at the DW Stadium are anything to go by.
Manchester United must hope the current leaders slip up against the most unpredictable team in the top league at Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season to have any hope of retaining their crown. But the signs are not good for Ferguson.
Vladimir Stojkovic, Wigan's stand-in goalkeeper, was so poor yesterday that he was mocked by his own supporters as Hull City came within a whisker of a first away win of the season before the end of their two-season stay in the Premier League was confirmed by Steve Gohouri's stoppage time equaliser.
Stojkovic, who will represent Serbia at the World Cup, flapped and fumbled at everything that Hull threw at him as the visitors came from behind to take the lead, and Martinez revealed afterwards that Stojkovic will probably face Chelsea after Chris Kirkland, Wigan's first-choice keeper, underwent surgery on a finger injury.
Stojkovic was at fault as Will Atkinson cancelled out Victor Moses's first goal in a Wigan shirt before the keeper's failure to collect George Boateng's cross allowed Mark Cullen to glide in for the second. Gohouri, the Ivory Coast defender, rescued a point for the hosts in stoppage time, yet Stojkovic's display was so comical that he was ironically cheered by Wigan's supporters when he did finally manage to cling to a cross in the second half.
"We all know Kirkland is one of the best English keepers in the league," Martinez said. "Vladimir has got a different style and is still settling in. Chris will be out of the game on Sunday. It's a huge, huge challenge we face."
Moses broke the deadlock with a stunning finish 15 minutes before half-time, his first goal for Wigan since his £2.5m move from Crystal Palace three months ago. Minutes later the England Under-21 international missed a glorious chance to double the lead but he miscued his attempt from a knocked-down corner.
It proved costly as Hull levelled in controversial circumstances when Atkinson headed beyond Stojkovic. The linesman flagged for off-side but referee Phil Dowd over-ruled his assistant much to Wigan's fury.
The Tigers emerged for the second half looking lively and felt they deserved a penalty for handball when Maynor Figueroa blocked a shot by Cullen. However, they went into the lead after Stojkovic reacted slowly to Boateng's cross which allowed Cullen to head home. Hull were moments from victory when Gohouri netted the equaliser in front of Sven Goran Eriksson, his international coach.
Iain Dowie, the Hull manager, saluted his players for their battling performance despite confirmation that the debt-ridden club will be playing in the second tier next season.
Dowie's future is up in the air but the former Crystal Palace manager is keen to stay. "That's for people much more erudite than me to talk about," Dowie said. "It doesn't need to be discussed. The pressing matter is the financial situation. My future or the future of my players will be secondary to that."
Wigan Athletic (4-5-1): Stojkovic; Melchiot, Caldwell, Gohouri, Figueroa; Diame (Scharner, 81), McCarthy (Sinclair, 64), Gomez (Scotland, 78), Watson, Moses; Rodallega. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Thomas, Boyce, Mustoe.
Hull City (4-4-2): Duke; Mendy, Mouyokolo, Gardner, Dawson; Atkinson, Cairney, Boateng, Kilbane; Vennegoor of Hesselink (Folan, 69), Cullen. Substitutes not used: Myhill (gk), Fagan, Barmby, Gomez, Cooper, Olofinjana.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Wigan Melchiot, Gohouri.
Man of the match Cullen.
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