Arouna Kone scored a 90th-minute winner as Wigan Athletic snatched three points with a controversial 2-1 victory over Newcastle United at DW Stadium.
Davide Santon’s well-taken 70th-minute effort had cancelled out Jean Beausejour’s early goal, but Kone’s late effort – after Maynor Figueroa had seemingly handled in the build-up – moves the Latics back to within three points of Aston Villa.
It followed a first half overshadowed by a reckless Callum McManaman challenge on Massadio Haidara, with the Wigan midfielder escaping even a yellow card.
Wigan’s morale-boosting 3-0 win at Everton last weekend, and the prospect of a Wembley cup semi-final, had been tempered by Aston Villa’s victory over Queens Park Rangers on Saturday which took the Birmingham side six points clear of the drop zone.
With just two wins at the DW Stadium all season, Roberto Martinez opted for an unchanged XI from the side which triumphed at Goodison Park – including the bold decision to hand 22-year-old Joel Robles a Premier League debut ahead of the usually reliable Ali Al-Habsi.
And the young Spaniard was called into action early – reacting well to save a powerful Steven Taylor header after the Newcastle defender found space at a corner.
Wigan came into the game slowly and took the lead with their first real chance on 17 minutes, Beausejour finding space in the box to prod home for his first Wigan goal after McManaman found space on the right wing to cross.
The home side pushed for a second but the architect of their goal - on his full Premier League debut - was lucky to stay on the field on 22 minutes after a horrendous studs-up tackle caught Haidara's knee.
Haidara – who himself had come on for the injured Mathieu Debuchy just 10 minutes before – was stretchered off, while McManaman remained on the pitch without even a caution from Mark Halsey.
Roberto Martinez’s side could have doubled the lead on 34 minutes, Shaun Maloney turning to find space on the edge of the area and forcing a good save from Rob Elliot with a curling effort.
Newcastle looked like the wind had been taken from their sails after Haidara’s departure but could have snatched an equaliser just before half-time.
Papiss Cisse, who had been quiet all match, met a flick on just six yards out but blazed the ball over with the last kick of the half.
As the players left the field at half-time, tensions flared up as Newcastle assistant boss John Carver remonstrated with McManaman – with only the timely intervention of replacement James Perch defusing the situation.
The fracas continued down the tunnel and Carver and Wigan coach Graham Barrow were both sent to the stands.
Newcastle started the second half brightly and Moussa Sissoko nearly equalised immediately, curling inches wide with a chance after Wigan failed to adequately deal with a corner.
McManaman very nearly compounded the controversy on 50 minutes, finding space after a goalmouth scramble and firing towards goal – with Perch doing enough to block the effort.
As the match opened up Cisse squandered two chances in quick succession for the visitors, but the out-of-sorts Senegal international made amends on 70 minutes.
Reacting quickest to a loose ball, Cisse collected outside the area and found the onrushing Santon with a perfectly weighted ball, and the Italian brilliantly fired past Joel to level proceedings.
It looked as though both sides would share the points but Wigan pressed for a winner and were rewarded on 90 minutes in another controversial incident.
An inswinging corner bounced off the outstretched hand of Figueroa and Newcastle failed to clear their lines and, after a frenetic goalmouth scramble, Kone smashed home to record a vital three points for Martinez’s charges.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Shaun Maloney (Wigan): A constant thorn in Newcastle's side throughout. He was a real menace with his forward runs and was unlucky not to get a goal in the first half. Hardly put a pass wrong all afternoon. PLAYER RATINGS
WIGAN: Joel 7; Scharner 5, Alcaraz 6, Figueroa 6; Boyce 5, McCarthy 7, Gomez 6, Beausejour 7; McManaman, 4 Kone 7, Maloney 8. Subs, Di Santo 5, McArthur 5
NEWCASTLE: Elliot 7; Debuchy 6, S.Taylor 7, Yanga-Mbiwa 7, Santon 7; Gutierrez 6, Tiote 5; Marveaux 5, Sissoko 7, Gouffran 6; Cisse 6. Subs: Harper, Haidara 5, Perch 7, Shola Ameobi 6