Rogan (left) had Sexton in real trouble before the fight was stopped
Martin Rogan lost his Commonwealth heavyweight title to Norwich's Sam Sexton in controversial circumstances at Belfast's Odyssey Arena.
Rogan, 38, had the 25-year-old Sexton out on his feet in round eight but hesitated to go in for the kill.
Sexton had a further opportunity to recover when he lost his gumshield.
And no sooner had the fight restarted when the doctor ruled Rogan, whose left eye had almost completely closed, was unfit to continue.
Rogan, who won the British Empire belt with a thrilling 11th-round stoppage of Matt Skelton in February, looked to land big rights throughout the fight while Sexton was content to try to box and move.
Sexton, who now has an identical professional record to Rogan, shook off several stinging shots while gradually working Rogan over and by the middle rounds the hometown hero's left eye had virtually closed.
Referee Dave Parris called for the doctor to inspect the injury on several occasions but let the fight continue.
Early in the eighth round Sexton took a barrage of punches and looked to be looking over the precipice, but with the Englishman swaying before him Rogan inexplicably stood off, hoping Parris would step in.
Then in a bizarre passage, Sexton suddenly came to his senses and started punching back, as Rogan, who was also warned for hitting on the back of the head, let his chance slip.
The Belfast crowd was clearly unhappy with the decision to call a halt to proceedings, but it was the correct one.
And after suffering his first defeat in 13 professional fights, Rogan was highly critical of referee Parris' performance.
The dethroned champion said: "There are plenty of rules for us but where are the rules for the referee to abide by?
"There is no point him coming into the changing room saying 'I want a clean fight and what I say goes' then when we get out there being totally biased against you and doing his hardest to stop you winning the fight.
"I think the British Boxing Board of Control seriously need to look into the refereeing because Sam got public warning after public warning three times every round and got away with it."
But a delighted Sexton said: "He caught me and I was rocked but I kept my composure well. I trained too hard for this and I wasn't going to lose this one."