BASILDON-based West Ham defenders James Tomkins was facing up to life in the Championship today following the Hammers’ relegation from the Premier League.
Tomkins was in the starting 11 for the Irons’ match against Wigan as they desperately sought the three points which could offer a lifeline from the threat of the drop.
But West Ham became the first team to fall through the relegation trapdoor as they threw away a two-goal lead at Wigan, who ensured their own survival battle goes to the last day of the season thanks to Charles N’Zogbia's stoppage-time winner.
The Hammers needed a victory at the DW Stadium to stand any chance of beating the drop and were 2-0 up at half-time courtesy of Demba Ba’s headers on 12 and 26 minutes.
But The Latics stormed back after the break. N’Zogbia scored twice, either side of a Conor Sammon goal, leaving Roberto Martinez’s side in the bottom three on goal difference alone and sending the visitors down.
West Ham took the lead after the Latics failed to deal with a corner.
In the ensuing scramble, Jack Collison’s shot was blocked and the ball came out to Thomas Hitzlsperger, who crossed for Ba to head past Ali Al Habsi.
The hosts tried to respond immediately, with N’Zogbia producing a strike that Robert Green gathered comfortably.
Wigan seemed to have regained the momentum — yet within moments, they were 2-0 down.
Hitzlsperger was the creator once more, the German’s delivery headed back across goal by Tomkins for Ba to nod in his second.
The home side almost fell even further behind just after the half-hour mark when Frederic Piquionne guided the ball beyond Al Habsi, only for Watson to clear off the line.
But Wigan pulled themselves back into the game. Having been fouled by Tomkins, N’Zogbia stepped up to take the resulting free-kick himself and lashed it into the corner of the net, his fourth goal in five games.
Soon after Ba was through one-on-one against Al Habsi, but could only shoot into the Oman stopper’s arms.
That proved costly for the Hammers as Sammon then ran on to Watson’s pass, turned inside Gabbidon and slotted home his first Wigan goal to level the scores.
The equaliser set up a frantic finale, with both sides desperately seeking a winning goal.
And when Watson saw his low shot came back off the post and then Green smother at his feet moments later, it seemed Wigan's chance for a precious victory was gone.
But N’Zogbia had the final say in the 94th minute, cutting into the box and slipping a shot under Green to keep Wigan in the fight for survival and leave the Irons facing up to the reality of life in the Championship.