Aston Villa were granted a stay of execution as their relegation from the Barclays Premier League was delayed – despite a wretched 2-1 home defeat to Bournemouth.
Steve Cook and Josh King gave the Cherries a deserved victory against an awful Villa side but Norwich’s 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace ensured the hosts were not demoted on Saturday.
Villa remain 15 points from safety with a vastly inferior goal difference with five games remaining and their relegation to the Sky Bet Championship just needs rubber stamping.
They have been bottom of the Premier League since November and never looked like putting up enough fight to beat Bournemouth, despite Jordan Ayew’s late consolation.
The Cherries, in contrast, moved onto 41 points and need just a draw to mathematically guarantee a second season in the top flight.
There was never any suggestion Villa were up for the fight from kick-off as, aside from token efforts from Kieran Richardson and Idrissa Gana, there was no real threat.
Just three wins all season – one coming on the opening day at Bournemouth – hardly gave hope they will deliver a rousing finale.
A broken team and club plodded through the half, going through the motions before being put out of their misery at the break.
Brad Guzan turned Lewis Grabban’s low drive behind after seven minutes during a dour half played at pre-season pace in a pre-season atmosphere as the home supporters amused themselves by jeering their own players.
Leandro Bacuna , who last month claimed he wanted to move to a Champions League club, and Guzan bore the brunt of it.
And the atmosphere nosedived in first-half stoppage-time when Bournemouth broke the monotony with a goal.
The Cherries had continually tried to outfox Villa with short corners and they finally unlocked them with the last kick of the half.
Matt Ritchie and Simon Francis worked it well on the right and Francis’ low delivery was flicked in by Cook at the near post.
Immediately, the half-time whistle went and Villa fans turned on their team and they were jeered back onto the pitch for the second half.
Rudy Gestede replaced Jordan Lyden, who made his full league debut for the club, but there was little suggestion of Villa instantly responding.
But they should have levelled after 59 minutes when Richardson missed a glorious chance.
Ayew wriggled free on the right and his low cross begged to be converted, only for Richardson to miss his kick and allow the ball to run through his legs.
There was, at least, a little more life in Villa but slim belief as the Cherries comfortably held on and they doubled their lead with 17 minutes left after a defensive howler from the hosts.
Ciaran Clark was robbed by King who then beat the on-rushing Guzan to the ball to chip it over the keeper and into an empty net.
Ayew’s 83rd-minute goal, as he ran through and beat Artur Boruc, gave Villa some cheer but will not make the difference in the long run with Villa staring at relegation.