Neil Warnock reckoned Wigan Athletic looked resigned to relegation even before the 0-0 draw with Cardiff that all-but sealed their fate.
Nothing other than three points would have kept Latics in with even a remote chance of avoiding an immediate return to League One.
But after another afternoon of complete and utter frustration at the DW Stadium, their fate was virtually sealed thanks to a 14th blank from 22 home league games.
“I think, if I’m honest, they thought they were already down,” insisted Warnock.
“That’s how I looked at the game.
“It was almost a case of frustration for them, this.
“This game’s not the one that’s got them relegated, is it?
“And I thought the crowd accepted it as well.
“All credit to my lads. We didn’t want to come here and lie down.
“We wanted to put in as good a performance as you can when you’ve nothing really to play for.”
It could have been so different had Latics been awarded what appeared to be a stonewall penalty in the opening 15 minutes when Wales midfielder Shaun MacDonald was sent tumbling inside the area.
However, referee Oliver Langford ignored that, as well as several subsequent claims that were nowhere near as convincing.
“I didn’t think any of them were penalties to be honest,” argued the Cardiff boss.
“There were that many of them, I thought it was embarrassing.
“It got to the stage where we tried to get in on the act at the end, because we were that fed up of them doing it.
“I thought the ref did well. I thought he was their best midfielder in the second half.”
Warnock had just taken over as Cardiff boss when Latics won 1-0 in south Wales in the corresponding fixture back in October.
That win - masterminded by Graham Barrow, following the sacking of Gary Caldwell - took Latics ahead of the Bluebirds on the league ladder, which now shows mid-table Cardiff holding an 18-point advantage.
“It’s incredible what they’ve done since I’ve been here,” acknowledged Warnock.
“The lads have really knuckled down really well.
“It wasn’t a pretty game, but you can see the spine of the team is very good.
“If we can add a few goals and a bit more quality in certain areas, I’m looking forward to a good season next year.”