Mark Hughes and Wigan counterpart Paul Jewell became embroiled in a war of words after Shefki Kuqi’s late equaliser kept up Rovers’ pursuit of European football, on this day in 2006.

Jewell launched an astonishing attack on referee Phil Dowd, claiming the Stoke-on-Trent official should never have allowed the goal to stand because there was a clear foul on his goalkeeper John Filan by Lucas Neill immediately before Kuqi put the ball in the net.

However, Hughes hit back at his Latics counterpart, insisting the ball “was there to be won”, and he claimed his team’s 84th minute equaliser was justice for the goal they should have had in the first half when a Morten Gamst Pedersen tap-in was harshly ruled out because of a foul by Paul Dickov on Filan.

The Rovers chief said: “Maybe Paul feels hard done by when the ball broke for our goal.

“But I thought the ball played in was a good ball, Lucas Neill made a genuine attempt to try and attack it and his momentum carried him into John Filan.

“But John never had the ball under control at that point, in my view, and who’s to say it wouldn’t have broken to Shefki anyway?

“I can see Paul’s point of view but we had another valid goal chalked off anyway.

“Paul Dickov’s challenge didn’t warrant a free kick. I think John Filan took his eye off the ball, dropped it, and Morten nipped in to score a valid goal, in my view.

“So, while Paul is unhappy with the goal we got, I was unhappy with the goal we didn’t get.”

Jewell branded Dowd incompetent’ after he let Kuqi’s goal stand, and was also furious at seeing Arjan De Zeeuw have a goal chalked off, adding: “We were robbed in the first half and robbed at the end. It’s always the same with Phil Dowd and Wigan. How our goal was disallowed I don’t know – it wasn’t even close (to offside).

“And their goal wasn’t a foul – it was GBH. I’ve been to see him and he didn’t mean to get it wrong – he’s just not very good.

“Another Premiership manager told me recently he’s the worst referee we’ve got and he’s right.”

On a night of unrelenting drama, Kuqi climbed off the bench to rescue a point for Rovers with a controversial 84th minute strike that evoked memories of Nat Lofthouse’s infamous goal for Bolton in the 1958 FA Cup final.

Leading 1-0 thanks to Jason Roberts’ 14th goal of the season, Rovers found their equaliser with just six minutes of this pulsating clash remaining.

Former Rovers keeper Filan, a thorn in his old team’s side all night, advanced off his line to gather a cross from Steven Reid but as he fumbled the ball, his fellow Australian, Neill, comprehensively flattened him as his momentum took him careering into the six-yard box.

Referee Dowd waved play on and Kuqi gleefully buried the rebound to give Rovers the point their gutsy fightback deserved.

Not surprisingly, Wigan cried foul as the post-match inquests began, with Filan joining his manager, Jewell, in condemning the performance of the match officials. “I thought it was a blatant foul, to be honest,” fumed the Aussie, “but there was a lot of things happening in the game which unfortunately the officials missed.”

Little had gone right for Kuqi before his late leveller, but then he lived up to his super sub reputation and became the unlikely hero by slotting home his first goal since Boxing Day.

He took his tally to seven in all competitions and all but two of those had come when entering the fray from the bench.

“Shef knows his strengths and, initially, we didn’t play to them,” said Hughes.

“But towards the end of the half we were hitting good angled balls into him and he was using his strength to good effect.

“He scored the goal and then angled a great header in to Bellers (Crag Bellamy) to create the best chance of the game, so he had an impact and that’s what I wanted him to do.”