As blue-and-white confetti exploded under the Wembley arch, Wigan players lifted a trophy for the first time in the club’s 81-year history.
In one of the biggest FA Cup final upsets, a team playing non-league football 35 years ago and assembled for barely $30 million beat big-spending Manchester City, 1-0, on Saturday in London.
Winning English football’s showpiece match was not only a reward for Wigan owner Dave Whelan’s investment in the small northern club, but completed his unfinished business from the 1960 final.
After breaking a leg playing for Blackburn at the old Wembley, Whelan’s career ended at the age of 23 and he started amassing the wealth that enabled him to ultimately finance Wigan.
‘‘The dream has come true,’’ Whelan said. ‘‘I'm repaid for 1960 when I broke my leg and we lost the match.’’
The game was drifting into extra time — and City defender Pablo Zabaleta had just been sent off — when substitute Ben Watson planted a header from Shaun Maloney’s corner into the net in the 90th minute. Watson had only just returned to action after recovering from a broken leg.
But there was no champagne for the Wigan players after the match. Now the history-makers will try to avoid the dubious distinction of being the first FA Cup winners to be relegated in the same season: Wigan is in the drop zone with just two rounds remaining, 3 points from safety.
The result throws into doubt the future of both managers. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, already widely admired in management thanks to his team’s impressive performances, will be in demand even more — especially with Everton looking to replace Manchester United-bound David Moyes.
At City, Roberto Mancini’s future in the dugout is also looking uncertain with Spanish media reporting that Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini has been approached to replace the Italian.
City is ending the season without a major trophy despite having the most expensively assembled squad in England, with more than $1 billion invested by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan since 2008.
Impact 3, Real Salt Lake 2 — Matteo Ferrari made up for a first-half own goal with a game-winning strike in stoppage time for host Montreal.
Kyle Beckerman scored to put Real Salt Lake up, 2-1, in the 77th minute, but Marco Di Vaio scored in the 80th minute, setting up Ferrari’s heroics.
FC Dallas 2, D.C. United 1 — A corner kick from Michel eluded traffic and found Je-Vaughn Watson at the far post, and it bounced off his stomach and in at the 77th minute as the home team extended its unbeaten streak to nine games (7-0-2). United suffered its franchise-record seventh straight defeat.
Sounders 4, Earthquakes 0 — Lamar Neagle scored twice and Mauro Rosales added a goal and an assist to help host Seattle wallop San Jose, moving its unbeaten streak to five games after a 0-3-1 start.
Union 1, Fire 0 — Jack McInerney scored his league-leading seventh goal and Zac MacMath made six saves to lead visiting Philadelphia over Chicago.
Rapids 2, Crew 0 — Edson Buddle and Dillon Powers scored 61 minutes apart on Colorado’s only two shots in the victory at Columbus, Ohio.
Whitecaps 3, Galaxy 1 — Russell Teibert, a 20-year-old from Ontario in his third season, scored his first two MLS goals to lead host Vancouver.
Breakers 1, Spirit 1 — Joanna Lohman scored as Boston (2-0-2) remained undefeated after a draw with Washington (0-2-3) in front of 4,027 in Germantown, Md.
The Breakers’ Lianne Sanderson notched her league-best third assist in setting up Lohman at 24 minutes. Sanderson came into the right side of the box, but without a clear look on goal, she quickly turned on her defender and found Lohman unmarked 8 yards from goal.
The Spirit (0-2-3) got their tying goal from Lori Lindsey six minutes into the second half. Washington nearly had the game-winner in the 89th minute, but Ashley Phillips made a spectacular diving save on a shot in close by Caroline Miller.