Roberto Martinez's Wigan brought a burst of Spanish sunshine to an unseasonably cold afternoon, banishing the chill wind of relegation as a bad winter memory. Bottom of the table for all of January and February, they had appeared doomed to end an unlikely seven years at the top table of English football. Now with Blackburn and Wolves to play, an eighth season is well within their grasp and equally well deserved.
Much of the football here as Shaun Maloney, James McArthur and James McCarthy played the ball around in midfield, was outstanding and Newcastle, on a run of six successive victories, became the latest victims of Martinez's 3-4-3 formation. Perhaps Barcelona should have checked out the tiki-taka in North-west England before immediately promoting from within to replace Pep Guardiola.
Having beaten Manchester United and Arsenal, then only lost at Fulham last week in the 90th minute, the home side were two Victor Moses goals to the good inside quarter of an hour, and four up by the interval. Newcastle famously recovered from a 4-0 deficit to draw with Arsenal last season, and had Papiss Cissé been able to add to his run of nine goals in six matches early in the second half then their 4,500 noisy followers might have dreamt of another great escape. Instead Wigan are looking like the escapologists and thoughts of Champions' League football returning to the North-east after nine years have suffered a blow or four. Tottenham will replace them in the top four if they win at home to Blackburn today and Newcastle must visit Chelsea on Wednesday.
The visiting fans, stunned as they were, kept up their admirable vocal support to the end. Newcastle's manager, Alan Pardew, had warned his side against any complacency, but was forced to admit that for 45 minutes they lacked Wigan's intensity. "Wigan were brilliant that first half," he said.
"I'm expecting a reaction on Wednesday." Martinez said. "We've shown a real clinical touch and the movement was a joy to watch."
A bright start by the home side became a dazzling one with a pair of goals in as many minutes. First Maloney, the goalscoring hero against United, spread the play wide to the overlapping Emmerson Boyce, who came inside on his left foot to cross. Without even getting off the ground, Moses was allowed to glance a headerpast a motionless Tim Krul.
The musical fanfare that heralds every home goal had barely died down before the repeat button was being pressed. This time Jean Beausejour was given time and room for a cross that Fabricio Coloccini made a mess of, the ball running free for Moses to place into the far corner of the net.
Twenty more minutes, during which Newcastle produced nothing more than a free-kick by Hatem Ben Arfa curled wide, and to the probable disbelief of all sections of the crowd, Wigan had a third. It was the best of them, a lovely slick move comprising first-time passes by Beausejour, then Franco Di Santo, leaving Maloney in the clear to beat poor, exposed Krul. There was more. In added time before the interval Maloney played a square pass to Di Santo who from 25 yards out looked up and found the top corner.
Wigan went off to a standing ovation and 'Let's Hang On (To What We've Got'). They did so comfortably in the end, although Newcastle finally showed some signs of their recent form. Having switched to a3-5-2 system after the second goal with left-back Davide Santon as a right wing-back, they changed back again and Pardew generously declined to make any substitutions until the last quarter of an hour. Cissé had scored in the last six games but it summed up Newcastle's afternoon when he was denied three times just after the hour. First, Ali Al-Habsi made a fine save, the second time the Senegal striker bent his shot against the crossbar and then his header from Ben Arfa's cross came back off a post.
Wigan, however, still threatened on the break, Moses being denied a hat-trick by Krul's one-handed save. It was a third successive home win, received almost as rapturously as the one against United, and of every bit as much significance.
Wigan (3-4-3): Al-Habsi; Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa; Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour; Moses (Gomes, 83), Di Santo (Sammon, 68), Maloney.
Newcastle (4-3-3): Krul; Simpson (Perch, 81), Williamson, Coloccini, Santon; Cabaye (Ferguson, 83), Tioté, Gutierrez; Ben Arfa (R Taylor, 73), Cissé, Ba.
Referee Mike Dean.
Man of the match Maloney.
Match rating 7/10.