Wigan Athletic overcame MK Dons possession-based football with an emphatic 3-0 victory at the DW Stadium.
The visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but Latics created the better chances and went ahead through George Johnston’s header from Viv Solomon-Otabor’s left wing cross in the 23rd minute.
The hosts increased their lead in the 64th minute when Gavin Massey’s right wing cross was headed home by Callum Lang and they sealed the vital three points in their relegation battle when Solomon-Otabor set up Joe Dodoo for his first Latics goal on 70 minutes.
MK Dons pressed for a consolation but Latics managed to keep them at bay and were able to keep their first clean sheet in six matches.
Latics move off the bottom of the table and are now only one point from safety with 13 games remaining. MK Dons drop to 16th place.
Leam Richardson made two changes to the starting eleven from the defeat against Charlton with Callum Lang and George Johnston replacing Thelo Aasgaard and Alex Perry. MK Dons had former Latics favourite Will Grigg in the starting line-up and former Latics keeper Lee Nicholls and midfielder Josh McEachron on the bench.
Latics had a great opportunity in only the third minute when Lang and Massey combined with a quick one-two and Lang was through on goal but his strike was well saved by Dons keeper Andy Fisher.
The visitors were starting to enjoy plenty of possession in the early stages but it was Latics who went ahead when Solomon-Otabor’s deflected cross from the left was headed home by Johnston with a well executed header from 12 yards out.
The visitors were playing a dangerous game playing out very slowly from the back and they were lucky not to be punished by Latics attackers who were pressing high.
The Dons manager Russell Martin was clearly unhappy with how it was going and made a double substitution on 31 minutes with Andrew Surman and Zak Jules replacing Daniel Harvie and Jordan Houghton.
Latics had another great chance to increase their lead on 35 minutes as Massey combined with Darikwa and the winger’s side-footed shot from inside the box was well saved by Fisher in the centre of the goal.
At the other end Ethan Laird found space on the edge of the 18-yard box before forcing Jamie Jones to tip his effort over the crossbar.
Harry Darling then tried his luck from 30-yards and his swerving strike crashed against the post with Jones beaten on 42 minutes.
Latics were under some pressure at the end of the first half but the visitors were unable to create any clear-cut chances with Grigg well marshalled by Curtis Tilt and Scott Wootton.
Early in the second half Joe Mason’s strike was wide of the target from Laird’s cutback as the visitors continued to dominate possession.
Darling was posing a threat as he began to stride forward for the visitors and as Latics retreated into defence.
But when Latics did finally break out of defence they consolidated their lead on 64 minutes. Dodoo won the ball back and found Massey whose right wing cross was headed home by Lang for his sixth goal of the season.
Ten minutes later and Latics sealed the three points when Dodoo and Solomon-Otabor combined and Dodoo had the relatively easy opportunity to finish from eight yards out in the centre of the box.
Jamie Proctor replaced the injured Dodoo on 75 minutes as Latics looked to see out the final 15 minutes.
The visitors continued to have plenty of possession but Latics were able to keep them at a safe distance. When they did manage to get a shot on target it was either well blocked by the defence or Jones was alert to the threat.
With five minutes remaining Dan Gardner replaced Solomon-Otabor and Aasgaard replaced Lang. In the four minutes of added time Alex Perry and Zach Clough replaced Funso Ojo and Massey as Latics saw out the final minutes relatively untroubled.
The visitors may have dominated possession but Latics had defended well, been more clinical in the final third and deserved the three points.
This was a morale boosting performance by Latics but they now have three difficult away games at Plymouth Argyle, AFC Wimbledon and Accrington Stanley. They must try to ensure that they continue to make progress and cut out the defensive mistakes that have plagued their season.