In a finish which rendered the Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness, speechless, Charlton ended their sequence of three defeats with a last-gasp winner from the late substitute Claus Jensen. Second only to his apoplectic manager must have been Brad Friedel, who had to pick the ball out of his net just after racing upfield for a corner and scoring what had appeared the most dramatic point-saving goal of the season.
If Souness could not believe it, the Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, tempered his delight with the sporting observation that "Blackburn must be sick".
Having watched his team dominate long stretches of the first half, only to go in two goals down, and then play as impressively in the second, to be denied in the last seconds of added time, Souness expressed disbelief. "This is the story of our season," he lamented. "To come out of that game with nothing is totally unbelievable. I find it hard to explain." So hard, in fact, that he exited his media conference saying: "Sorry, I'm going."
As Curbishley acknowledged, Charlton were "desperate for a result" after the string of losses which followed Scott Parker's departure to Chelsea. But it was skill and determination, rather than desperation, which provided their interval cushion of two goals, with Paolo Di Canio wheeling and scheming to wonderful effect. He was involved in both goals. The first was scored by Carlton Cole and the second, by Jason Euell, interrupted a slab of Blackburn pressure with Brett Emerton at its fulcrum.
Charlton went in front when, in a move which he started, Cole drove in a vicious rising shot from Di Canio's centre, with Craig Short and Markus Babbel too easily rounded by the scorer. A shot of equal merit from Emerton brought the first of many stunning saves by Dean Kiely, while Blackburn's new striker, Jonathan Stead, almost made it three goals in as many games when he hit the base of a post.
But it was Charlton who celebrated the next score as Di Canio's head flicked on a Stuart Young cross and Euell, like Cole before him, was allowed time to control the ball before smacking it in on the volley.
Andy Cole replaced Stead for the second half, and was then joined by his old sparring partner, Dwight Yorke, as Charlton's cohesion vanished and a rampant Rovers tormented them. Thanks to Kiely, Charlton still looked safe until the last 15 minutes, when a grossly misjudged back-pass by Radostin Kishishev went straight to Andy Cole. Gratefully, he rounded Kiely, only to tread on the ball staring at an empty net, and finally managing to steer in his goal as Chris Perry closed in. Twice in as many minutes Andy Cole was frustrated by the genius of Kiely. The keeper did it again in the last minute of normal time, again with Cole the unlucky striker. But Friedel came steaming upfield for the corner, which landed beyond the far post, was returned into the middle by Paul Gallagher, cleared by a defender and rebounded off Friedel past his opposite number.
Friedel went capering back, arms upraised in acceptance of the visiting fans' joy. But his next touch of the ball was a sobering one. Matt Holland's free-kick was nodded on by Hermann Hreidarsson for Jensen to strike the most dramatic of winners. As Curbishley smiled: "It must have been a good game to watch."
Charlton Athletic 3
Carlton Cole 10, Euell 36, Jensen 90
Blackburn Rovers 2
Andy Cole 75, Friedel 89
Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 26,332