BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) - Aston Villa are on the brink of being relegated for the first time in 29 years after the Premier League's bottom club slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Bournemouth on Saturday.
Eric Black's side were condemned to their eighth successive defeat by goals in either half from Steve Cook and Josh King as the atmosphere turned mutinous at Villa Park.
Jordan Ayew's late strike was no consolation and although Villa were spared official confirmation of their drop into the second tier because fourth bottom Norwich were beaten by Crystal Palace, their fate is likely to be sealed at Manchester United next weekend.
After a humiliating season that must rank among the worst in the Premier League era, Villa remain destined to play in the second tier for the first time since the 1987-88 season.
The seven-time English champions and former European Cup winners are 15 points adrift of safety with only five games left and a vastly inferior goal difference to Norwich.
In stark contrast, unheralded Bournemouth's first season in the top-flight is now certain to end in the satisfaction of comfortably avoiding relegation.
It would have been impossible to imagine just how awful Villa's season would turn out to be when they won at Bournemouth on the opening day of the season.
But that success in the August sunshine has been followed by only two more league victories as Villa slid inexorably towards the Championship, with managers Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde sacked while chief executive Tom Fox and sporting director Hendrik Almstadt were also axed.
Villa's disillusioned fans stepped up their protests against American owner Randy Lerner as a significant number heeded calls to stay out of the stands for the first seven minutes of the match.
And when Villa's Idrissa Gueye scooped a half-volley into the empty seats early on, it was a fittingly depressing summary of their decline.
Bournemouth had conceded seven goals against Tottenham and Manchester City in their last two matches, but Villa have proved the tonic for most ailing opponents this season and it took a fine save from Brad Guzan to stop Lewis Grabban putting the visitors ahead.
Villa had gone without a goal in their previous four matches and there was no sign of an end to that barren sequence as Ashley Westwood blazed well over.
With little fight visible from Black's side, it was no surprise when Villa fans started jeering their team after another misplaced pass from Leandro Bacuna and their anger only increased in first half stoppage-time as Bournemouth took the lead.
A short corner caught Villa napping and Cook found space to flick home from close-range for his fourth goal of the season.
Rain began to lash down in the second half as mournful chants of 'Villa til I die' drifted from the stands, a display of loyalty unlikely to be matched by an under-performing squad frequently accused of acting like hired mercenaries.
Kieran Richardson has hardly been a big hit at Villa Park and he wasted a golden chance to equalise with a woeful miskick just yards from Artur Boruc's goal.
Even the news of Palace's goal against Norwich brought little more than a murmur from the home supporters and Bournemouth added to the gloom in the 74th minute when King punished sloppy defending with a cool chipped finish.
Ayew netted from the edge of the penalty area with five minutes left but it was too late to spark a fightback.