Premier League - Black Cats hit four at Wigan
Sunderland continued their resurgence under Martin O'Neill with a 4-1 Premier League win over struggling Wigan at the DW Stadium.
The Latics spent much of the opening 45 minutes in the driver’s seat and hit the woodwork twice in succession, only to fall behind to Craig Gardner’s thunderbolt free-kick in time added on.
James McClean doubled the advantage ten minutes after the break, and though Hugo Rodallega gave manager Roberto Martinez hope of a comeback with a goal seven minutes later, Stephane Sessegnon and David Vaughan wrapped things up on 73 and 80 minutes respectively.
The away win propels the Mackems into the top half of the Premier League table for the first time this season, while Wigan remain adrift inside the drop zone along with local rivals Bolton and Blackburn.
The home side began confidently, with the first real chance of the game going their way just inside the opening ten minutes.
Steve Gohouri tried his luck with a decent effort following a Latics corner, and it took a clearance near the Sunderland goal line from Gardner to keep the scores level.
The visitors eventually eased into the game to an extent, and Nicklas Bendtner came within inches of connecting with a good McClean centre in the 28th minute.
Wigan inadvertently gained extra sharpness when Albert Crusat was forced to come off six minutes before the interval, with in-form Victor Moses coming on in his place and causing the Black Cats plenty of problems.
His give-and-go to Jones led to the midfielder forcing a quality save from goalkeeper Simon Mignolet on the stroke of half-time, but in the fourth of five added minutes at the end of the half, it was the away side who made the breakthrough.
After Bendtner had controversially won a free-kick under minimal contact from several Wigan defenders, Gardner utilised the windy conditions expertly to put the opening goal beyond Ali Al-Habsi and deliver a sucker-punch to the hosts.
Not long into the second half, things went from bad to worse for Athletic when McClean doubled the lead at the second time of asking, after Al-Habsi had done well to save his initial header from a Vaughan centre.
Martinez soon made an attacking switch with Conor Sammon replacing Ronnie Stam, and it soon paid off as the striker may well have got the final touch on Rodallega’s effort which brought the lead back down to one just seven minutes later.
But with 17 minutes remaining and the home side searching hard for the completion of an impressive comeback, Sunderland struck again to put the game to bed.
Bendtner dispossessed a hesitant Maynor Figueroa and whipped in a cross of a strong enough quality to leave Sessegnon the simplest of finishes for 3-1.
And ten minutes before the end, further complacency from the tiring Latics allowed Vaughan to contest Gardner’s opener for goal of the game with a speculative drive which sailed into the top corner.