Wigan were plunged further into the relegation mire after they suffered a 2-0 defeat at West Ham in their crucial Premier League match at Upton Park.
Matt Jarvis gave the hosts the lead in the 21st minute with a fine delivery which evaded everyone in the box and beat Joel Robles in the Wigan goal, and Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan - who netted his 100th career goal - combined for a stunning second as Roberto Martinez’s side suffered their 18th league defeat of the season.
The Latics now find themselves three points adrift of their relegation-threatened rivals, and they turned out a largely uninspired showing as Nolan’s emphatic volley late on helped the buoyant Hammers stretch their unbeaten run to five matches.
Sam Allardyce named an unchanged line-up after his side claimed a point against leaders Manchester United in midweek, while Martinez recalled both Gary Caldwell and Callum McManaman for what was a hugely important match in their battle to retain their top-flight status.
The play lurched from end to end from the outset, and West Ham should have taken the lead inside the first 10 minutes as James Collins won a towering header to flick on Jarvis’s corner, only for Nolan to head wide as he ghosted in unmarked at the back post to meet the ball.
Straight up at the other end Shaun Maloney, making his 50th appearance for Wigan, squandered a glorious opportunity as he was presented with a one-on-one with Jussi Jaaskelainen, but he could only sidefoot a tame effort straight at the keeper, who did well to smother the ball.
Carroll, who came under a lot of criticism for some robust challenges on David De Gea against United earlier in the week, won his side a dangerous free-kick which was taken short, and Nolan raced through unattended from the resulting set piece but only managed to stab a low shot to Joel’s right as the keeper made a smart save.
Martinez was understandably agitated as West Ham caused havoc from set pieces, and he had to act quickly to make an enforced change as Antolin Alcaraz limped off with Jean Beausejour introduced. His side proceeded to enjoy 60 per cent of the possession with nothing to show for it in the first half.
The hosts constantly troubled Wigan with fine deliveries into the box, and the best of the afternoon from Jarvis put his side in front directly as his devilish inswinging delivery was missed by both Mohamed Diame and Nolan before it nestled in the back of the net to give him just his second goal for the club.
There were vociferous appeals for a penalty just before half-time as Nolan went down inside the Wigan box under a clumsy challenge from behind from James McCarthy, but referee Neil Swarbrick shook his head disdainfully, much to the ire of Allardyce and his players.
Wigan, who won seven of their last nine games to stay up last season, began the second half brightly after Martinez acted swiftly to replace the ineffectual McManaman with James McArthur at the break. A clear-cut chance to equalise was wasted by Emmerson Boyce just after the hour mark as he met Maynor Figueroa’s precise dinked delivery at the back post but only managed to head tamely straight at a grateful Jaaskelainen.
Wigan were devoid of a creative spark in the final third of the field, and Jaaskelainen was in inspired form as he made a brilliant reflex save to deny substitute James McArthur from close range late on.
There was to be a second goal, but it arrived at the other end as Carroll produced a controlled overhead kick to direct a long ball into the path of the onrushing Nolan, who swivelled and volleyed brilliantly beyond a stunned Joel in the Wigan goal to wrap up a fine win for the hosts.
The defeat leaves Martinez’s side still three points adrift, having now played the same number of games as Aston Villa, while for West Ham it was another impressive display as they move up into 10th place in the table.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Kevin Nolan – West Ham: It was an afternoon to remember for the West Ham skipper as he scored his 100th career goal to cap a typical all-action display from midfield.
WEST HAM: Jaaskelainen 7, Demel 6, Collins 7, Reid 6, O'Brien 6, Diame 7, O'Neil 6, Vaz Te 6, Nolan 8, Jarvis 7, Carroll 7. Subs: Collison 6, Noble 6, Joe Cole 6.
WIGAN: Robles 6, Scharner 6, Caldwell 5, Alcaraz 6, Boyce 5, McCarthy 6, Gomez 6, Figueroa 5, McManaman 5, Kone 5, Maloney 7. Subs: Di Santo 6, McArthur 6, Beausejour 6.