IN the cold light of day it’s a goal which keeps Liverpool eighth in the Premier League.
Yet the scenes of jubilation triggered by Andy Carroll’s dramatic last-gasp winner at Ewood Park underlined this was about so much more than picking up three points.
The Reds maybe consigned to also-rans in the top flight but crucially they will head for their date with destiny at Wembley on Saturday with hope restored.
After the dismal struggles of recent weeks, this was the show of character fans had longed to see.
Carroll provided the final glorious contribution of a chaotic night which almost defied belief.
From 2-0 up and cruising, the Reds shot themselves in the foot spectacularly.
Alexander Doni’s Wembley dream lies in tatters today after he was sent off for bringing down Junior Hoilett.
Left to play with 10 men for 65 minutes, their lead evaporated and they were facing another crushing blow to morale.
But in the face of adversity Kenny Dalglish’s side delivered. How fitting that Carroll was the hero as he epitomised the Reds’ fighting spirit.
Ten days ago Brad Jones was Liverpool’s third choice keeper. But, remarkably, the Aussie who has been through so much personal turmoil during his Anfield career following the death of his young son Luca will now line up against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final.
What a rollercoaster night for the former Middlesbrough shot-stopper who hadn’t played since Dalglish took over.
His first touch for the Reds in the Premier League involved keeping out Yakubu’s penalty but his copybook was dented by the glaring blunder which allowed the former Blues frontman to later restore parity.
Now Liverpool need him to show nerves of steel when it really matters on Saturday.
Dalglish had rung the changes with one eye on Wembley. Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing were omitted from the squad, while Jose Enrique, Jamie Carragher, Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt dropped to the bench.
Fears that an understrength team could be vulnerable were swiftly eased as Liverpool dominated the opening exchanges.
They got their reward with a blistering counter attack in the 13th minute.
Carroll was back helping out inside his own half when he teed up Martin Skrtel and the stand-in skipper showed great vision to launch a pass which released Craig Bellamy down the right.
The Welshman raced to the byline and delivered the perfect cross for the onrushing Maxi Rodriguez to convert at the back post.
It showcased the kind of ruthless streak the Reds have been sadly lacking all season but then far too often they have gone into battle without Bellamy and Rodriguez.
This was only Bellamy’s 11th league start, while Rodriguez’s opportunities have been even more limited.
The Argentinian is an intelligent creative force and a natural finisher. Having marked only his sixth league start of the campaign with the opening goal, he needed only three minutes to double his tally.
The much-improved Jonjo Shelvey won possession back in midfield and was gifted the freedom of Ewood Park as Blackburn’s defenders backtracked.
The young midfielder’s strike from the edge of the box was spilled by Paul Robinson. Scott Dann thwarted Carroll’s attempts to convert the rebound but it dropped kindly for Rodriguez, who effortlessly swept a left-footed volley into the net.
It was his sixth goal in just 13 starts in all competitions this term and only Suarez, Bellamy and Gerrard have been more prolific for the Reds.
Liverpool were rampant with the natives getting increasingly restless.
However, midway through the first half the self-destruct button was pressed.
Jon Flanagan’s weak backpass was pounced on by Hoilett who nipped the ball past Doni before being sent clattering by the keeper.
The outcome was sadly inevitable as referee Anthony Taylor brandished the red card. Doni stood shell-shocked, struggling to come to terms with the cruel hand fate had dealt him.
Pepe Reina’s suspension had handed the Brazilian shot-stopper a shot at Wembley glory but in the blink of an eye that was whipped away from him. The long walk off could hardly have been completed any slower.
In truth the Reds were fortunate to still have 11 men on the pitch at that point. Flanagan had already been booked when he chopped down Marcus Olsson and somehow escaped with a final warning.
The young full-back made way for the entrance of Jones who flung himself to his right to cling on to Yakubu’s desperately weak penalty.
However, Rovers began to make their numerical advantage count.
Nine minutes before the break the lead was halved as some woeful marking was punished. David Dunn delivered a free-kick into the area and Yakubu was gifted a free header which he planted past Jones.
The interval provided Liverpool with respite and they should have been out of sight early in the second half.
Bellamy’s inswinging corner was crying out to be put away but Carroll’s diving header flew past the post.
Shelvey then picked Dunn’s pocket before firing over from 25 yards as hard work and organisation helped the Reds establish a measure of control.
Aside from comfortably claiming Grant Hanley’s effort, Jones had been virtually a spectator but on the hour the Aussie dropped a clanger.
Having ambled over a backpass he then hammered his clearance against Yakubu. It looped up towards goal but with the keeper underneath it there appeared to be little danger.
However, it slipped through his grasp and then he foolishly put his hands on Yakubu. Contact was minimal but the striker’s theatrics fooled Taylor.
The only saving grace was that Jones was only booked rather than sent to join Doni in the bath.
Yakubu’s second spot-kick was barely struck any better than his first but with Jones having gone the wrong way parity was restored.
Dalglish’s rage at that penalty decision was clear and he had good reason to vent his spleen again soon after as Bellamy went into the book for a dive when he was clearly upended by Bradley Orr.
His mood would have darkened further had Jones not reacted to tip Carroll’s misplaced defensive header over the bar.
From hanging on for a point somehow the Reds summoned the energy to get all three. Sebastian Coates clipped the ball forward, Agger leapt to nod across goal and Carroll powered it past Robinson.
The mood was transformed. “We’re on the march with Kenny’s Army,” echoed around Ewood Park. Next stop Wembley.
Blackburn: Robinson, Orr, Dann, Hanley, Martin Olsson, Dunn (Lowe 75), Nzonzi, Hoilett, Formica (Rochina 72), Marcus Olsson, Yakubu. Not used: Kean, Givet, Petrovic, Pedersen, Goodwillie.
Liverpool: Doni, Johnson (Agger 53), Coates, Skrtel, Flanagan (Jones 25), Shelvey, Henderson, Spearing, Rodriguez (Enrique 77), Carroll, Bellamy. Not used: Kuyt, Suarez, Aurelio, Carragher
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)
Attendance: 23, 571
Yellow cards: Flanagan, Orr, Rodriguez, Jones, Formica, Bellamy, Henderson, Hanley.
Red cards: Doni,
Goals: Rodriguez 13, Rodriguez 16, Yakubu 36, Yakubu 60, Carroll 90+1