Wigan Athletic came through one of their sternest away tests when they recorded a hard-fought 3-1 victory at in-form Plymouth Argyle.
In an exciting end-to-end game both teams produced high quality attacking play, but it was Latics who secured the three-points to extend their unbeaten league run to ten games and move five-points clear at the top of the table.
The Pilgrims, who had been on an eight game unbeaten run, went ahead on 27 minutes when Chey Dunkley brought down Graham Carey, and the midfielder got up to convert the penalty.
But Latics were level almost immediately when Nick Powell played an accurate ball with the outside of his right boot to find Will Grigg and the striker got the slightest of touches to deflect the ball past Remi Matthews.
In a wide open game both teams continued to create chances but it was Latics who went ahead in first half stoppage time. Max Power burst into the Pilgrims half and his defence splitting pass found Gavin Massey who finished well into the bottom corner.
Plymouth made it difficult for Latics at the beginning of the second half winning many of the midfield battles and putting pressure on the defence.
But Latics extinguished much of the Pilgrims fire when on 69 minutes Power’s corner was headed home by Man of the Match Dan Burn, his header taking a deflection off a defender before hitting the back of the net.
Paul Cook retained the same starting line up from last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Peterborough United. New signing James Vaughan was on the bench.
Will Grigg had an early chance for Latics when a Plymouth defender played the ball across his own area, but the striker was unable to capitalise.
Argyle applied some early pressure but it was not long before Latics were creating chances at the other end.
Chey Dunkley almost put Latics in front but his header cleared the crossbar from close range after a good delivery by Power.
Plymouth’s most creative player Carey was causing problems for Latics, and after getting the best of Dunkley in the area he was brought down from behind by the defender.
The midfielder stepped up and comfortably beat Christian Walton from the penalty spot to deny Latics a record levelling eighth clean sheet in a row.
At least Latics were soon level when Powell played a deceptive low cross with the outside of his right boot and Grigg deflected the delivery past Matthews.
Powell tried his luck soon afterwards with a snap shot from a neat pull back by Nathan Byrne but Matthews made the save low down to his right.
Then in added time in the first half Latics went ahead with a superb counter-attack. Powell won the ball on the halfway line and fed Power who burst forward before playing a defence splitting pass to Massey and the winger finished low into the corner of the Argyle net.
Argyle started aggressively at the beginning of the second half and were winning many of the midfield battles.
Walton made a good save low down from a Carey free-kick as the pressure on Latics’ defence mounted.
The wind was causing problems for both teams as it swirled around Home Park.
Argyle defender Gary Sawyer almost put through his own net with an ill-considered back pass but although the ball looped over his own keeper, it fortunately bounced in the six yard box and over the crossbar.
Antoni Sarcevic then blazed over the crossbar for Plymouth from a good central position.
But the three points were secured for Latics on 69 minutes when Power’s well hit corner was headed home by Burn, although it took a deflection off Zak Vyner before hitting the back of the net.
Plymouth’s heads noticeably dropped after the third goal and although they had plenty of possession in the final quarter of the game they rarely troubled keeper Walton.
It was a very important away win for Latics in their pursuit of the League One title against a strong and in-form Argyle team.
The 459 visiting fans who made the pilgrimage to Home Park were superbly rewarded with an entertaining game and a great result which strengthens Latics’ position at the top.