Latics survival chances are now poised on a precipice after they lost 2-0 at Millwall last night.
Wigan had Martyn Waghorn and Jason Pearce and Millwall had Ed Upson sent off in a bad-tempered encounter.
Millwall set out with a game plan to intimidate Latics with some tough tackling and off the ball aggravation and the strategy paid dividends in the second half when Waghorn reacted to a scuffle in the penalty box and was red carded.
Millwall took the lead on 74 minutes when Nadjim Abdou headed home Dan Harding’s cross before Pearce and Upson were both dismissed following an altercation by the by-line.
A late strike by Magaye Gueye sealed the three points and condemned Wigan to almost certain relegation whilst giving Millwall a slim lifeline with which to rescue their Championship status.
New manager Gary Caldwell selected the same starting eleven from the draw at Fulham on Friday night.
With so much riding on the game neither team gained control in the opening exchanges.
Millwall nearly went ahead 18 minutes following a mistake by Gaetan Bong. Aiden O’Brien intercepted a pass near the half-way line and broke free from the Wigan defence but Scott Carson intelligently used his foot to clear the danger.
Wigan were now starting to dominate possession but Millwall continued to break up most of Wigan’s promising moves with some petulant fouls. Kim Bo-Kyung in particular was the subject of a succession of kicks and trips by the home team.
Referee Steve Martin struggled to control the game when a few early yellow cards would have allowed Wigan to play their football.
Wigan had a glorious opportunity to take the lead on 27 minutes. Marc-Antoine Fortuné met Bong’s deep cross but his header lacked any conviction and Forde was able to tip over the crossbar.
The challenges continued to fly in and Bong was involved in a flare up with Lee Gregory. Several players joined in and the referee Martin had to separate them. Bong and Gregory both received yellow cards.
Latics should have been ahead just before the interval. Jermaine Pennant’s excellent corner found Pearce in space but the centre-half did not make good contact with his header and the chance was wasted.
Millwall started the second half brightly and O’Brien’s strike forced a superb save from Scott Carson. Wigan manager Gary Caldwell responded by replacing Fortune with Martyn Waghorn.
But Waghorn wasn’t on the pitch for long. The striker chased a long kick forward from Carson, and was involved in a tussle with Cummings as the defender shielded the ball out for a goal kick, after he was bundled over and on the floor Waghorn then appeared to kick out at Dan Harding. The referee showed a red card.
The numerical advantage was now with Millwall but Latics swarmed forward. Kim neatly played in Bong on the left but the full back blasted over the crossbar from only eight yards out.
Against the run of play Millwall went ahead. Gregory broke free on the left, swung in a deep cross and Abdou connected with an unstoppable header past Carson. Latics now had a mountain to climb.
With ten minutes remaining the match descended into chaos. Pearce was shown a straight red card for a foul on O’Brien near the corner flag and Millwall defender Ed Upson was also shown a red for pushing Pearce in the face. A scuffle broke out among the players and referee Martin’s failure to control the game was amply demonstrated.
Despite only having nine men Latics continued to go forward, but once again on the break Millwall struck as Gueye went clear and fired an angled drive past Carson.
The result means Wigan could be relegated on Saturday as they sit seven points from safety with only three games remaining.
Wigan manager Gary Caldwell accurately summed up the game afterwards when speaking to the press.
“In the first half there was one team trying to play football and one team out to rough us up.
“We let that affect us and the referee didn’t control it at that time, and the game got out of hand in the second half.”