Talk of Blackburn Rovers plummeting down the Premier League in the aftermath of Sam Allardyce's sacking sounded like so much hot air as Steve Kean gained his first victory as a manager at the expense of a West Bromwich Albion side who looked more likely to be embroiled in a relegation struggle.
Kean, who had taken one point from two home games, saw the £6m Croat Nikola Kalinic strike either side of a Jerome Thomas goal to double his season's tally. Mame Diouf completed the scoring before Kalinic was sent off, after 64 minutes, for a high challenge on Paul Scharner. Albion's Gabriel Tamas was also red-carded for serious foul play in the 87th minute after cutting down Mame Diouf.
Goalkeeper Paul Robinson exemplified Blackburn's spirit by starting the game despite a calf strain that later forced him off and gave Mark Bunn the chance to make three outstanding saves. Michel Salgado was also determined to play after a bout of sickness that led to his substitution, as Kean memorably put it, "before he threw up". The Scot also reported that Christopher Samba, who had failed a fitness test, was not, after all, intent on leaving. "Chris has assured me he never said he wanted a transfer," Kean said.
The Albion coach, Roberto Di Matteo, whose team have lost seven of the past 10 matches, said: "We need to roll up our sleeves to get enough points to stay in the Premier League." Next up at The Hawthorns: Manchester United on New Year's Day.
Blackburn took an early lead when Kalinic, on the left flank, exploited Scharner's poor positioning to run on to El-Hadji Diouf's long pass, but Albion were soon level, Thomas converting Somen Tchoyi's low cross.
After Robinson's exit Blackburn were helped by Albion's tendency to take the scoreboard advert for "Black Country Gifts" too literally. First, Morten Gamst Pedersen's corner was headed back by Ryan Nelsen for Kalinic to glance home. Then, after a short corner, Nelsen flicked on El-Hadji Diouf's cross for Mame Diouf to score with a brave diving header.
West Bromwich Albion (4-1-4-1): Carson; Jara (Barnes, 74), Scharner, Tamas, Shorey; Mulumbu; Tchoyi, Morrison (Cox, 66), Dorrans, Thomas; Odemwingie. Substitutes not used: Myhill (gk), Cech, Ibanez, Miller, Reid.
Booked Jara. Sent off Tamas (87).
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): Robinson (Bunn , h-t); Salgado (Hoillett, 52), Hanley, Nelsen, Olsson; M Diouf, Emerton, Pedersen, EH Diouf (Benjani, 82); Dunn; Kalinic. Substitutes not used Givet, Linganzi, Doran, Morris.
Booked Salgado, EH Diouf, Bunn. Sent off Kalinic (64).
Man of the match Nelsen.
Referee P Dowd (Staffs).