N’Zogbia’s late winner keeps Wigan alive but condemns Grant

Wigan Athletic 3 West Ham United 2

Charles N'Zogbia's 94th-minute goal extended Wigan's unlikely six-year Premier League adventure by at least another week as relegation cost West Ham's Avram Grant his job.

The Hammers were already on their way to the Championship, having squandered their two-goal lead, when N'Zogbia cut in from the right to beat Robert Green at his far post with a perfectly placed low shot.

Wigan might still be favourites to take the drop themselves, but their supporters burst on to the pitch on the final whistle, celebrating as though they had not merely avoided relegation but won the Champions League.

The euphoria might be temporary, but this result was a triumph for manager Roberto Martinez' half-time tactical reshuffle. "We have many, many options in the squad and we had to take risks," he said of his decision to bring on two impatient young attackers, Victor Moses and Conor Sammon, and move the hitherto quiet N'Zogbia into a more central role.

The pay-off was almost instantaneous. N'Zogbia was fouled by James Tomkins just outside the area, won the debate over who should take the free-kick and smashed it left-footed into the top-left corner.

"The Great Escape" was back on the schedule. After 67 minutes, Ben Watson found Sammon, the big Scottish striker taking a couple of slightly ponderous touches before finding his feet and firing past Green.

With perfect timing, a plane circled over the ground, with a trailing banner that read: "Avram Grant Millwall Legend."

"We had a real mountain to climb at half-time, but that's when the character comes through," Martinez said. That character may yet prove insufficient to keep them in the top division, but at least Wigan have given themselves a chance.

For half the game, though, the trusty left foot of Thomas Hitzlsperger and the head of Demba Ba seemed as though they might preserve a much-changed West Ham's slender Premier League lifeline.

Scott Parker, so often cast in the role of potential saviour this season, was only fit enough after his Achilles injury to take his place on the Hammers bench, where he had plenty of company from others also more familiar with a berth in the starting line-up. The general opinion was that the substitutes looked stronger than the team.

Wigan limited their changes to the recall of Mohamed Diame as an extra central midfielder. It smacked a little less of panic than Grant's selection, made in spite of the Hammers' encouraging record of five wins in their eight visits to the DW Stadium.

It looked promising enough for the Latics in the opening minutes. Tom Cleverley, the loan signing from Manchester United who has been such an asset this season, had one shot pushed around the post and set up another for Diame that went too high.

Gary Caldwell picked out Hugo Rodallega with a through-ball, but he shot straight at Green and, not for the first time this campaign, all Wigan's neat football amounted to nothing.

The West Ham fans who packed the away end had done their sums and knew what they thought of both teams' survival chances. "You're going down with the West Ham," they sang and, as soon as the partnership of Hitzlsperger and Ba got at the Wigan defence, that began to look the likely outcome.

The German pounced on an indecisive clearance to whip the ball in for the first goal, headed home powerfully by Ba. Wigan had hardly recovered from that when Hitzlsperger delivered a free-kick from the left with equal precision. Tomkins won it in the air beyond the far post and Ba was there again to finish it off. Ba Humbug, as they might say in the town that gave the world Uncle Joe's Mintballs.

It could have been worse if Watson had not cleared off the line from Frédéric Piquionne, but Wigan continued to enjoy more than their share of the possession without being able to take any of their chances.

Rodallega had an overhead kick well-saved and Diame was also frustrated by Green. The West Ham goalkeeper knew little, however, about the block he made from Rodallega's effort when the ball came back in from the resulting corner.

Green's luck ran out in the second half, although he could do little about any of the goals. He is one of the players now likely to join the exodus from Upton Park, led by Grant.

The manager played a dead bat about his own future in the immediate aftermath. "I'm not thinking about myself while I'm in this room. I'm just so sorry for these supporters. I wanted to do well for them," he said, pointing to the chance for a Ba hat-trick at 2-1 that could have brought a different result. That is all in the past for West Ham now, but for Wigan the glorious uncertainty goes on, at least until they play Stoke City on Sunday.

One thought had to occur to anyone watching this most exhilarating and dramatic of matches. If these two teams had displayed the same sense of urgency throughout the season they would not have been in this plight on its penultimate Sunday.

Substitutes: Wigan Moses (McCarthy, h-t), Sammon (Cleverley, h-t), McArthur (Rodallega, 90). West Ham Parker (Spector, 60), Cole (Piquionne 74), Keane (Collison 83). Unused Kirkland (gk), Gohouri, Gomez, Di Santo, West Ham Boffin (gk), Upson, Da Costa, Sears. Booked: Wigan N'Zogbia West Ham Parker. Man of the match N'Zogbia.

Match rating 8/10. Possession: Wigan 50% West Ham 50%. Attempts on target: Wigan 9 West Ham 3. Referee M Dean (Wirral).

Attendance 22,043.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears