Wigan consolidated their standing at the top of the Championship, despite a battling show from Gillingham for the benefit of their new manager, Stan Ternent.
Back in the North-West, where so much of his managerial career has been forged, Ternent must have feared the worst when Nathan Ellington put the Latics ahead from close range after 15 minutes.
A comfortable victory, looked on the cards, but Wigan lost much of their impetus in the second half, until Lee McCulloch removed all doubt about the outcome three minutes from time.
"I was delighted to see that second goal go in," said the Wigan manager, Paul Jewell. "We played really well in the first half. In the second, I've got to give Gillingham a lot of credit. I thought they were excellent. They worked hard and if they continue like that there is no danger that they won't stay up."
Ternent, in his first game in charge of a team since being sacked by Burnley at the end of last season, declared himself happy with the attitude of his new side. "They gave me everything they had," he said. "I don't like losing, but that makes it a little easier. I've got something to work with."
The 22 League places separating the two sides at the halfway point in the season were all too apparent in the first half. Leighton Baines, looking to celebrate his 20th birthday, had already seen a shot stopped by his team-mate McCulloch and the debutant goalkeeper, Paul Gallacher, had needed to save at Ellington's feet before Wigan took the lead.
It was a goal typical of so many they have scored this season. Jimmy Bullard, who along with Alan Mahon controlled the game from midfield, picked out Jason Roberts with a through ball and, with the defence hoping for an offside decision, he pulled it back for Ellington to claim a simple 14th goal of the season.
There could have been more in the first half. Instead, the score stayed precariously poised as Wigan began to look distinctly ordinary after the break.
Gillingham enjoyed more possession without ever looking particularly dangerous. Iwan Roberts replaced Tommy Johnson, who had fired over from their one first-half chance, and the big Welshman's header across goal was their nearest approach to an equaliser.
It took the introduction of another substitute, Wigan's Mike Flynn, to produce the clinching goal. He whipped in a low, deep cross which was met by McCulloch with a crisp angled drive from beyond the far post and Wigan were sure of all three points.Reuse content