Wigan Athletic are now in prime position for the League One title after a hard fought victory against a stubborn Oxford United at the DW Stadium.
Latics had to wait until the 87th minute to break the deadlock but Will Grigg’s 25th goal of the season was enough to secure a vital win and lift them three points clear of second place Blackburn and eight ahead of third place Shrewsbury with four games remaining.
With time running out Man of the Match Samy Morsy produced a defence splitting pass which found substitute Devante Cole who squared the ball to the prolific Grigg who finished from close range.
It was no more than Latics deserved against Karl Robinson’s team who had set out to frustrate and stifle the League leaders.
Michael Jacobs and Max Power twice had chances to open the scoring in the first half and Grigg scooped the ball over from inside the six yard box in the second half as the hosts made most of the running.
Oxford had a couple of opportunities on the break but it was mostly one-way traffic as Latics secured their 27th league win of the campaign.
Paul Cook made four changes from Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Rotherham United with Jay Fulton, Gary Roberts, Ryan Colclough and James Vaughan all coming into the team.
Latics started slowly and it was Oxford who went close early on when Ricardinho fired wide of the target from 20 yards.
The hosts struggled for fluidity in the early stages and were clearly missing the creativity of the injured Nick Powell and the attacking runs of Nathan Byrne.
But as the half wore on Latics started to create some chances and Power tried his luck from distance and Jacobs rattled the crossbar with a strike from a tight angle.
Simon Eastwood then superbly tipped over Power’s free-kick before Alex Mowatt headed Chey Dunkley’s effort off the line
The visitors had a rare attempt on goal when Canice Carroll volleyed narrowly wide of Christian Walton’s goal and the teams went into the interval goalless.
Latics continued to dominate possession in the second half but they were struggling to create clear-cut chances until Grigg replaced Colclough on 65 minutes.
Latics top scorer almost broke the deadlock on 75 minutes when he turned in the area but scooped the ball over the crossbar from close range.
Gavin Massey replaced Fulton on 68 minutes and Devante Cole replaced Vaughan on 82 minutes and Latics gradually started to carve out more opportunities.
The deadlock was finally broken on 87 minutes when captain Samy Morsy played a delicious through ball to Cole who squared it to the unmarked Grigg for his 25th goal of the season, much to the relief of the home fans.
Cole might have added a second soon afterwards with a super run and shot but keeper Eastwood managed to tip the ball onto the post and prevent the young striker’s first goal for the club.
Latics had not been at their best on the night, with plenty of signs of fatigue amongst the players, but they had persevered against stubborn opponents and got a vital win strengthening their position at the top of the table.