Premier League - Dunn rescues point for Rovers
Charles N’Zogbia unleashed an emphatic finish to put Villa ahead in the 24th minute as the visitors dominated possession. Rovers were insipid in the first half before improving markedly in the second.
Villa continued to have the better of the play, but Dunn grabbed a dramatic equaliser five minutes from time with a firm header to salvage a point and a share of the spoils.
A major new protest was staged by the Blackburn fans against the club's hierarchy ahead of the game, with three marches that set off simultaneously around an hour before kick-off and joined together at Ewood Park. It was a rather ominous backdrop to the match.
Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish began life without Darren Bent by making four changes as he drafted in N'Zogbia up front with Stephen Ireland, Stiliyan Petrov and Chris Herd all returning; Steve Kean, meanwhile, replaced Marcus Olsson with Steven N'Zonzi.
Villa should have taken the lead in just the fifth minute when N’Zogbia hurtled down the right at pace and cut the ball back to Marc Albrighton - but the winger could only slice an innocuous effort high and wide from 12 yards out.
The visitors made all the early running as Rovers were confined to mere fleeting forays into the Villa half, but one such attack forced Herd to fling himself full-length with a brave block to deny Morten Gamst Pedersen, whose low drive looked destined for the bottom corner of the net.
The opening goal appeared inevitable as Villa piled on the pressure, and it arrived midway through the first half: Carlos Cuellar slid an incisive through ball into the path of N’Zogbia, who lashed a thunderous half-volley beyond Paul Robinson.
N’Zogbia’s strike ensured that Blackburn have now gone 30 Premier League games without a clean sheet, just four games shy of the record of 34 set by West Brom.
The pressure on Robinson’s goal was relentless and the Rovers skipper was forced to make a very fine save down low to his right to deny N’Zogbia a second on the stroke of half-time after the forward was again afforded an embarrassment of space.
To say it was a laboured first-half display from the hosts would be an understatement, and Kean reacted by replacing the ineffectual Mauro Formica and Radosav Petrovic with Dunn and Olsson at the break.
Robinson’s inspired display continued in the second half as he produced a stunning double save: first diving full-length to tip away a fizzing drive from Ireland, then diving bravely at the feet of the onrushing Alan Hutton to gather the subsequent loose ball.
Robinson then moved his side on to the attack as he punted a long ball upfield which N'Zonzi met with a precise header on, and Scott Dann went agonisingly close, heading a fine effort which grazed the top netting with Shay Given beaten.
Rovers continued to force their way back into the contest with Dunn and Olsson providing a fresh impetus, and the former jinked inside two challenges before finding Junior Hoilett, whose rasping drive was parried wide superbly by Given after the hour mark.
Given came to Villa’s rescue again in the 70th minute as Pedersen connected very sweetly with a high ball as he volleyed on target, and the Irishman was forced to palm wide once more as the home fans became excited.
Robinson distinguished himself yet again late on as Stephen Warnock whipped in a stunning delivery from the left, and Agbonlahor began to wheel away in celebration after producing a powerful downward header only for the former England keeper to claw the ball away from his line.
But for all Villa’s possession, the second goal was an equaliser as local hero Dunn rose to head powerfully beyond Given from Bradley Orr’s fine cross out on the right. Kean jumped with delight on the touchline.
However he, like McLeish, remains under intense pressure with both clubs engaged in the relegation scrap. Villa will regret a golden opportunity to put 10 points between themselves and the drop zone.