Rovers came from behind to snatch victory in a dramatic second half at Ewood Park after James Perch had put Uwe Rosler’s men ahead with a brilliant first league goal for the club.
The lead lasted only a few minutes and Latics paid a high price for switching off and allowing their hosts to score twice in a little over five minutes, then giving Ben Marshall the space to curl his second of the afternoon late on to put the issue beyond doubt.
It was cruel on Latics who had the best chances in the first half and missed a penalty through Ivan Ramis after Callum McManaman had been upended in the box. But in the end, it was a case of ruing those missed chances and moving on to the trip to Huddersfield on Tuesday.
Two of Latics’ deadline signings, Andy Delort and Wiilam Kvist, were in the starting line-up, while Adam Forshaw made his debut late in the game.
Latics started brightly but Rovers were first to have an attempt, Jordan Rhodes forcing Scott Carson to parry out for a corner from a breakaway. Latics threatened from a corner of their own, Emmerson Boyce rising highest to meet Emr Huws’ delivery, but he headed wide.
Latics slowly began to take a hold on the game, Delort showed Tom Cairney a clean pair of heels before being brought down and McManaman danced round Alex Baptiste on the left touchline but the move broke down.
Huws then managed to get free in the box but couldn’t find a yellow shirt with the pull back before Delort’s deep cross found Perch at the far post but his header back narrowly failed to find Don Cowie.
Then came the controversial moment, on 39 minutes. The ball fell to McManaman in the box and Baptiste brought him down as he tried to twist past him – shades of last season at Bolton. Ramis was the unlikely taker but rifled the ball over the bar – what a missed opportunity.
The incident seemed to spur Latics on, however, and Delort was brilliantly found by Perch at the far post, the shot flying inches wide. McManaman then forced a good save from Paul Robinson at his near post and Boyce then headed over from Mcmanaman’s dinked cross in injury time.
Latics somehow went in at the break still on level terms then but made amends five minutes after the restart. Huws broke into the box on the right hand side this time, he pulled the ball back, which was cleared out to Perch, who, 25 yards out, rifled it first time with a daisy cutter which sailed through a sea of legs and past Robinson low to his right. He scored in the FA Cup and the Play-Offs, of course, but this was his first league goal.
Latics fans were still celebrating when Rovers struck back three minutes later in a virtual role reversal. Latics failed to clear their lines properly and the ball fell to Ben Marshall who punched it home from outside the box, giving Carson no chance.
Three minutes later and the game was turned on its head as Latics failed to deal with Craig Conway’s long free-kick into the box from the left and Rhodes headed it into the ground and past Carson.
Could they mount a response?
Shaun Maloney was introduced with half an hour left in place of debutant Kvist and the game was on a knife edge, both sides looking dangerous.
Matt Kilgallon cleared a shot from Andrew Taylor after good work down the right, Luke Varney then failed to connect on the line at the other end. Frenetic stuff. It needed a touch of quality, which Huws almost provided with a drive that flew just wide, and thankfully from a Latics point of view, Varney didn’t when pulling his shot wide.
Adam Forshaw made his debut when replacing Huws with just over ten minutes left, Martyn Waghorn coming on for McManaman at the same time. Could they provide the magic ingredient?
Alas not, and instead it was Marshall who found space on the edge of the box to curl a shot around the outstretched fingers of Carson to seal the deal.
The afternoon was summed up in injury time when Delort’s cross was met by Taylor at the far post, he beat Robinson but the ball whistled the wrong side of the post and Latics’ great following were forced to head home disappointed.