Rotherham United were left scratching their heads over how they were making the trip back over the Pennines empty-handed as Adam Armstrong’s last-gasp winner was a cruel end to a game, in which Paul Warne’s side looked set to at least claim a point, and possibly more.
The Millers shaded a fairly even first half, by creating the most clear-cut opportunities, without making it count but Michael Smith’s second goal in successive games put them ahead at Ewood Park, on the hour mark.
Matt Crooks came close to making it two, but the Millers were punished for the miss when Harvey Elliott levelled matters before the in-form Armstrong pounced, in the eighth minute of second half stoppage time, just seconds after sub Freddie Ladapo had planted a header narrowly wide.
Buoyed by their eye-catching victory over Bristol City at the weekend, Warne kept faith with his starting line-up.
As per against the Robins, the Millers named just eight substitutes, out of the allotted nine, as Trevor Clarke was missing, due to a back issue, but Warne was able to call on the services of Mickel Miller, who shrugged off a bout of illness to take his place on the bench.
The Millers had the first sight of goal, in the early seconds, when Kyle Vassell was bundled over by Bradley Johnson and Dan Barlaser clipped a free-kick into the box which caused havoc in the home ranks but Rovers scrambled the ball to safety.
Warne’s side had an early scare when Crooks was backtracking towards his own goal, and he inexplicably played a casual backpass which gave the in-form Armstrong, a sniff of an interception but Viktor Johansson raced off his line to take the ball off the toe of the home forward, by hacking clear.
Just before the quarter hour, Liverpool loanee Elliott cut inside with purpose before playing a delicate ball over the top which caught the Rotherham rearguard square and Sam Gallagher did well, to meet his cross by hooking the ball over the advancing Johansson, but fortunately, for the Millers, his effort cleared the crossbar.
The Millers had the best chance of the half when Crooks and Jamie Lindsay combined smartly and Olosunde got the better of Barry Douglas on the right flank, and in almost a carbon copy of the second goal at the weekend, the American full-back drilled a low cross, which Smith deftly flicked towards goal, but agonisingly, it whistled past the far post.
At the other end, Ryan Nyambe took a run on the outside of Wiles, before pulling the ball back into the path of the advancing Douglas, who tried his luck from distance with his favoured left-foot, but despite Johansson flying across goal, it failed to trouble the target.
Warne’s side then had an eventful sixty seconds, as they threatened the home goal on two occasions when firstly Smith got the ball from out of his feet to deliver a delicious centre into the path of Vassell, who had ghosted away from his marker, but on the stretch, he could only steer the ball into the grateful hands of Thomas Kaminski – although the flag was raised.
In the next phase of play, Rotherham cleverly switched possession to the right flank and Olosunde showed fleet of foot, to work a shooting position, on the edge of the box, before planting a cross-cum-shot which evaded visiting runners, as it flew harmlessly across the face of goal.
With little separating the sides, Johansson was called into serious action for the first time when Gallagher led a home attack and Joe Rothwell injected pace into the move, by backing both Olosunde and Lindsay into the box, before firing a stinging drive which had the Swedish ‘keeper at full stretch, as he kept the ball out with a parried save.
Rotherham finished the first period in good heart and Vassell nipped the pocket of Douglas before giving Smith, a glimpse of goal, but John Buckley, put in a timely intervention to prevent him getting his shot away.
Minutes later, Michael Ihiekwe became the first to see yellow for hauling down Gallagher in full flow before Smith, who was leading the Rotherham line to great effect, won a free kick and Barlaser curled a centre which was met by the head of Smith, but under pressure, from a home defender, he could only blaze his effort over.
Half-time- Blackburn Rovers 0 Rotherham United 0
Despite the Millers being rarely troubled in the first half, Rovers had a half-chance, early in the second 45, when Nyambe put a ball in the channel and Johansson appeared to be in two minds, as he was caught in no man’s land, when Armstrong firstly latched onto the ball, but from a tight angle, he could fire into the side netting.
Some sloppy play from the Millers presented Rothwell with the chance to strike from the edge of the box, but his low effort was blocked en-route to goal, before Rotherham pinned the hosts back, for a few minutes, without creating any meaningful chance of note.
Warne’s side continued to press but Vassell failed to make the most of an opening when he screwed a shot into the stand behind the goal before Douglas was cautioned for bringing down Olosunde, following another Millers counter attack.
Rovers made a double change on the hour mark but it was Warne’s side, who opened the scoring with their next attack.
There looked little danger for the hosts until Crooks’ deft flick bisected the home rearguard and put Smith in the clear, and the Millers frontman kept his nerve to strike a fierce right-footed effort which beat the attentions of Kaminski to find the far corner of the net.
Minutes later, Lindsay was booked for a foul on Buckley, before Vassell had a half-chance when Rovers failed to clear decisively, but he was crowded out at close quarters.
The home side gradually regained their composure and sub Stewart Downing forced a superb save from Johansson following a low, drilled effort before Gallagher fired over from a promising position – although any goal would have been chalked off for offside.
The game was on a knife-edge and the Millers squandered a chance to ease their nerves – with a quarter an hour to go, when Elliott’s mistake was pounced upon by Crooks, who showed the Rovers defence a clean pair of heels, but he scuffed an effort wide from the edge of the box, when he maybe should have done better and despite having sub Ladapo, in support.
German midfielder Lewis Holtby fired over from the edge of the box before another Millers substitute, George Hirst made an impact from the bench, when he made something out of nothing, to advance into the Rovers box with ease, before clipping a cross, which floated narrowly wide of the target.
However, Blackburn got themselves back on level terms with ten minutes to go when Armstrong’s slide rule pass caught the Millers defence at sixes and sevens, and Elliott got the ball under his spell, before stroking the ball into the visitors’ net, giving Johansson no chance.
The Millers were temporarily unsettled by the setback and Ihiekwe was fortunate to escape further sanction following a clumsy foul on Armstrong before the Millers were relieved to see an offside flag when sub Amari’i Bell headed home.
However, Rotherham suffered a rollercoaster of emotions, in injury-time, when firstly sub Wes Harding delivered a tantalising cross which looked inch-perfect for Ladapo, who headed into the side netting, from point-blank range.
There was further drama to come and the Millers had their heads in their hands, when Blackburn swept upfield in the remaining seconds, and with no Miller taking charge of the situation in the box, Armstrong took advantage of the hesitancy to slot home, and deal the Millers the cruellest of defeats, in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Full-time- Blackburn Rovers 2 Rotherham United 1
Blackburn Rovers 2
Rotherham United 1
Teams: Blackburn- Kaminski, Nyambe, Lenihan, Ayala, Douglas (Downing 60), Johnson (Trybull 68), Rothwell (Bell 60), Buckley (Holtby 68), Elliott, Gallagher (Dolan 89), Armstrong. Unused- Pears, Carter, Lyons, Chapman.
Rotherham- Johansson, Olosunde, A MacDonald, Ihiekwe, Wood, Wiles (Harding 71), Lindsay, Crooks, Barlaser (Jones 90), Smith (Hirst 71), Vassell (Ladapo 71). Unused- Blackman, Thompson, Miller, Jozefzoon.
Referee- J Gillett