From the moment Ali Al Habsi inexplicably allowed a speculative Mikel Arteta shot to slip through his hands and into the Wigan net there was only one team in this embarrassingly uneven confrontation. Arsenal, themselves strugglers barely two months ago, capitalised ruthlessly on their relegation-threatened opponents' alarming inadequacies to stroll to their most emphatic victory of a turbulent season which has seen them concede eight goals at Old Trafford and score five at Stamford Bridge.
For Wigan it was a day of bemusement. Roberto Martinez, their erudite manager, had asserted a week ago that the welcome victory which signalled the end of Steve Bruce's tenure at Sunderland would kickstart a more productive second half of the campaign.
After this abject display it is back to the drawing board for Martinez and his shattered troops, who are again propping up the Premier League with games against three more top clubs on the horizon. "We allowed Arsenal to win a little too easily," conceded Martinez. "We were excited going into the game because our level of play had been high in the previous two matches. We need to learn that we cannot give goals away like we did today when we are up against high-class opposition."
Wigan's manager resisted the urge to condemn his goalkeeper for the pivotal error in the 28th minute followed by another mistake a minute later, but the evidence against the Omani was overwhelming. Arteta is noted for his shooting power but his 25-yarder was routine catching practice for most goalkeepers and the blunder had a devastating effect on Wigan's fighting spirit.
Moments later a Robin van Persie corner to the far post landed on the head of Thomas Vermaelen, who again offered Al Habsi the opportunity of a comfortable save. Again the ball found its way through and what had begun as a tense battle was effectively over inside half an hour.
"Wigan had started well and caused us a few early problems," reflected Arsène Wenger, Arsenal's manager. "Overall it was a good team performance. The confidence is there now and I congratulate my team for growing and getting better and better."
Wenger was also delighted that Van Persie was given a welcome helping hand in the goal-scoring department before rounding off the victory with his 18th strike of the season, shortly after Gervinho had notched the clinching third in the second half. "It's good for the morale of the team that others can score as well," said Wenger, who spoke confidently of maintaining his record of serving up Champions' League football as a matter of course at the Emirates Stadium.
"The other teams in contention have also won comfortably today so it is going to come down to consistency in the latter stages of the season."
Van Persie must have feared this would be a rare day of frustration after suffering the backlash of Al Habsi's calamities. The Dutchman brought the save of the match from Al Habsi when connecting sweetly with a half-volley just inside the penalty area and was thwarted twice more before being presented with an irresistible tap-in by Theo Walcott.
Wigan were on their knees by then but could have added to their recent encouraging results here against Arsenal if Jordi Gomez had taken an outstanding early chance.
Wigan (4-1-3-2): Al Habsi; Stam, Gohouri, Caldwell, Figueroa; McCarthy; Gomez (Crusat, 59), Diamé (McArthur, 89), Jones; Sammon (Di Santo, 59), Moses.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Koscielny, Mertesacker,Vermaelen, Santos; Song (Arshavin, 80), Arteta; Walcott (Benayoun, 80), Ramsey, Gervinho (Coquelin, 80); Van Persie.
Referee Mark Clattenberg.
Man of the match Ramsey (Arsenal).
Match rating 8/10.