One challenge and £12 million. That was the difference at the Stadium of Light, where the lack of control in Jordi Gomez's the 47th-minute tackle was in stark contrast to the precision of Steven Fletcher.
First though, Gomez, who needlessly threw himself into a tackle with Danny Rose near the halfway line. Some people still question these decisions. The laws, set out by Fifa, are remarkably clear, so they are worth revisiting: "Any player who lunges at an opponent, using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play."
Thus, Gomez, lunging with unnecessary force, was shown a red card by Howard Webb, and so a level of dom-
inance for the visiting side that had seriously unsettled Sunderland during the opening half disappeared.
Martin O'Neill's side had not won a Premier League game before yesterday and, as Wigan started to create good, genuine opportunities to go ahead, nerves began to grow.
Simon Mignolet excelled twice to deny James McCarthy and Arouna Koné. Gomez and McCarthy went close with drives.
Sunderland had only a Sebastian Larsson free-kick that was hacked off the line by Ivan Ramis in reply. Then Gomez was dismissed and Sunderland were on their way. Four minutes later, James McClean drove across the Wigan area and Fletcher (left) shot home his fifth goal in a fourth Premier League start since his costly move from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
"I think it [the sending off] was harsh," said Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager.
"Danny Rose loses the ball slightly, Jordi tackles as a striker tackles, showing the studs, but he never leaves the ground. I can understand why the referee gave it but it is very hard. Larsson has done a worse challenge and he was not even shown a yellow card. You want consistency.
"We created three outstanding chances. It speaks volumes for our performance. The sending-off affected us too much. Sunderland had one shot on target and won three points. It is a disappointment."
O'Neill thought the red card was correct. "I'm not so sure the referee has much alternative," he said. "Whether Roberto agrees or disagrees, I think his main point was it changed the dynamic of the game. We reaped a reward pretty quickly. We scored soon after and it gave us a lot of impetus. The sending off probably didn't help Wigan.
"They came and played their part and I have to thank Mignolet for making two incredibly good saves. Steven Fletcher was brilliant today for us. The crowd have taken to him and I'm really delighted."
Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O'Shea, Rose; Johnson (Vaughan, 79), Larsson, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Wigan (4-3-2-1): Al Habsi; Boyce (McManaman, 85), Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa; McCarthy, McCarthur (Ryo, 85), Beausejour; Gomez, Maloney (Di Santo, 61); Koné.
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: Fletcher (Sunderland)
Match rating: 4/10