A fortuitous own goal and a late winner by James McClean gained Latics a 2-0 victory over fellow Championship strugglers Leeds United at Elland Road on Boxing Day.
It was a vital first win in six games for new manager Malky Mackay and it moves the team to within three points of fourth bottom Millwall.
Wigan took an early lead through a freak own goal when Leeds defender Liam Cooper chested James McClean’s cross past his own keeper in the 11th Minute.
McClean sealed the victory with ten minutes remaining when he completed a great counter attacking move rifling his shot past Marco Silvestri. It was Latics first three points since the away win at Derby County on the 25th October.
Malky made four changes from the recent defeat against Rotherham United with Rob Kiernan, James Tavernier, Ivan Ramis and Marc-Antoine Fortune coming into the starting eleven. FA Cup winners Emmerson Boyce, Shaun Maloney and Callum McManaman were on the substitutes bench.
The manager decided to go with a new formation with Ramis, Kiernan and Perch as centre backs and Tavernier and Taylor as wingbacks and a front-two partnership of McClean and Fortune.
As expected it was Leeds who were quick out of the blocks forcing Latics into defence. But Wigan were ahead in bizarre circumstances on 11 minutes.
McClean whipped in a low cross to the near post and under no pressure the Leeds centre-half Liam Cooper stretched to reach the ball with his chest and inadvertently diverted it into the bottom corner of Silvestri’s net.
It was a stunning blow for a home team lacking in confidence and it also gave Latics a platform to build on.
Leeds might have drawn level on 28 minutes when Cooper’s header beat Scott Carson but smacked against the crossbar. Carson then had to be sharp to cut out a delivery from Antenucci and Billy Sharp curled an effort wide of the Wigan upright.
However, Fortune might have doubled Latics lead just before the break, when he was played through by McClean but the Leeds keeper got down well to the striker’s angled drive.
The first period had been a fairly even affair, but Latics went into the interval with the important advantage.
The second-half was a different affair as Leeds dominated proceedings from the kick off. The Leeds manager Neil Redfearn reshuffled his line up at half time with striker Steve Morrison and the midfielder Rudolph Austin replacing Bianchi and Mowat.
Latics struggled to contain some free-flowing Leeds attacks with Stephen Warnock instrumental in many of their best moves. The home team created a plethora of goal scoring opportunities but a combination of some poor finishing, good defending and a little Lady Luck meant the Latics goal was not breached.
Antenucci failed to convert Lewis Cook’s cross from the right, and Carson produced an excellent save to tip over Giuseppe Bellusci’s drive. Carson then saved Cook’s drive from the edge of the box and then an effort from Austin.
The pressure was almost relentless as Carson tipped away Morrison’s header for a corner, and Byram headed over. Then Morrison put his effort well wide from the edge of the box, and then Austin shot high over the crossbar.
Latics should have put the game to bed on 81 minutes when substitute Roger Espinoza was sent clear by McClean but his effort was just wide of Silvestri’s left hand post.
But a minute later the result was sealed as Cowie’s through ball found McClean in the box and the Irishman rifled his shot past the helpless Silvestri. Cue scenes of great delight from the travelling band of Latics supporters.
This was a big confidence boosting win for Wigan but on this performance there is still plenty of work to do if the team are to rise up the table and away from the relegation zone.