Just six days after they were left one over the eight at White Hart Lane, Wigan put one over their former manager Steve Bruce at the DW Stadium – and Sunderland's day went from bad to worse when Darren Bent alleged his mother was "racially abused" by one of the club's own fans.
Bent, writing on his Twitter feed after Hugo Rodallega's late goal helped Wigan put the 9-1 trauma at Tottenham behind them, said: "So we get beaten by Wigan and my mum gets racially abused by a Sunderland fan." Describing the incident as "an absolute disgrace", the 25-year-old England international and club-record signing added: "I won't stand for that." A Sunderland spokesperson said they were "liaising with Northumbria Police to investigate the matter fully". But the shaming episode, if confirmed, should not distract from a rousing, resilient display by Wigan.
With 14 minutes left, a clean sheet looked the most Roberto Martinez could hope for as his team strove to atone for the trauma of Tottenham. Then a Colombian, Rodallega, got the better of a Paraguayan, Paulo da Silva, and Wigan had their redemption.
"We had to react, we had to perform, we had to win," Martinez said. "In my eyes that was as big as a cup final. The past week has been a huge test for the whole club, and the players showed all the ingredients you need in the face of adversity. I'm so proud of them."
Bruce, whose team could have broken into the top six with a victory, said angrily: "That's something like one win in 17 away games. We were a shadow of the side who beat Arsenal a week ago. It's deeply frustrating, and unless the mentality changes, I'll have to do something about it. We've let down 5,500 fans."
Rodallega was, of course, a Bruce buy for Wigan. Asked whether his former chairman, Dave Whelan, had apologised for suggesting he had left Martinez "some dodgy signings", Bruce said they had an "amicable" meeting, adding pointedly: "[Rodallega] does not look a bad signing now, does he?" Martinez's programme notes had described Wigan's deflowering by Spurs as a "freak football event" which left everyone "ashamed and extremely hurt". Yet of last Sunday's starting line-up only the left-back, Erik Edman, paid with his place.
When there was a hold-up on the half-hour, Bruce was, tellingly, the more animated figure in the rival technical areas. By then, Wigan could have been ahead, Jason Scotland coming closest during a positive start. In a sign of things to come, Da Silva lost possession, allowing Charles N'Zogbia to cross low from the right. From 10 yards out, Scotland's instant shot thudded against the base of the near post.
Sunderland's only moment of menace had come when Bent wriggled through six minutes earlier. Emmerson Boyce's last-ditch challenge was skillfully executed, but then Wigan were only one down at half-time at Spurs. Perhaps sensing that a little pressure might expose the fault lines, Bruce sent on Fraizer Campbell to partner Bent and, for 20 minutes, it changed the complexion of the contest.
Andy Reid and Phil Bardsley both saw shots deflected behind; Bent, meeting a Reid cross, mis-directed a header across the six-yard box; and Campbell slipped on to his backside and mis-kicked when well placed.
But when the endlessly industrious Scharner lobbed the ball towards the left angle of Sunderland's penalty area, Da Silva lost his footing and fell over as he tussled with Rodallega. The striker still had to get the angle right, but Marton Fulop's rash decision to charge off his line played a part in his low shot finding the far corner of the net.
"Brucie, Brucie," the Wigan faithful crowed, before posing the question they had endured all week: "What's the score?"
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Rodallega
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content