Good times are rolling again for Wigan. After their breathtaking arrival as a Premiership team, the five straight defeats they suffered in the season's most daunting run of fixtures might have had dire consequences for a group of players of lesser character. But Paul Jewell's exuberant side have bounced back splendidly, following up their pre-Christmas victory over Charlton by clinching a thrilling edge-of-seats win before a record crowd of 25,017 at the JJB Stadium.
With speed merchants Jason Roberts and Henri Camara terrorising an accident-prone City defence, Wigan stuttered at the start but then delighted their own followers by racing to a 4-1 lead with 20 minutes left. The visitors, for whom throwing in the towel is not an option, with Stuart Pearce making his feelings clear in the technical area, cut that to 4-3 with a spirited comeback but Wigan deservedly prevailed.
Neither manager was much impressed, Pearce understandably after defending he described as "horrendous", but as a spectacle it could hardly have been more entertaining.
It began with Antoine Sibierski, preferred to Andy Cole, rewarding Pearce's faith by scoring in the second minute. Stepping up on the blind side of the Wigan defender Pascal Chimbonda, Sibierski headed David Sommeil's cross past Mike Pollitt.
But now came evidence of the depth of character in a Wigan team, starting with an equaliser that provided the afternoon's first example of the pace and strength of Roberts, which were to be the feature of the game - and of City's bad day at the back, in which an unfortunate Sylvain Distin was a serial offender.
Gary Teale lofted a pass through the middle, Distin's attempt to intercept failed and Roberts was clear in a moment, finishing with a shot off the inside of David James' right-hand post.
Next came a peach of a second Wigan goal, set up brilliantly by Roberts' partner in menace, Camara, who shook off Distin's attentions before releasing Teale on the overlap. The right winger supplied a perfect cross from which Lee McCulloch, with a speed of thought too quick for Sommeil, gave James no chance with a powerfully dispatched header.
Wigan had an escape two minutes later when Joey Barton, having pounced on an error by Jason Kavanagh before playing a one-two with Darius Vassell, was unlucky to see his chip hit a post with Pollitt beaten. Matt Jackson gratefully hooked the ball away from under the bar.
But they cashed in again on City's disjointed defending to put themselves two goals ahead with another burst of velocity and vigour from Roberts, who this time profited when Distin and Ben Thatcher suffered a communication breakdown in the centre circle. Thatcher went to clear a ball he should have left to his team-mate and succeeded only in back-heading Roberts into another clear run on goal.
Distin tried to make amends but was shrugged off by the Wigan man, who slotted the ball wide of James with almost an exact copy of his opener.
Barton was unlucky again two minutes into the second period, drawing a good save from Pollitt with a shot from the right and seeing his follow-up header cleared off the line by Chimbonda.
Sending on Cole and Richard Dunne with 35 minutes left, City threw everything into a comeback attempt that would have satisfied Pearce's demand for passion, if nothing else. But after Pollitt had defied Barton and Vassell in a magnificent double save, then kept out Trevor Sinclair and Cole, all in the space of three minutes, came the killer blow for City. Camara's footwork proved too much for Dunne and the Senegal striker skipped easily past the Irishman before sliding home Wigan's fourth.
Cue Wigan's wobble, prompted when Barton volleyed home his fifth goal of the season with 14 minutes left. Cole snatched another after Pollitt could only block from Sinclair with two minutes left, after which Sibierski should have grabbed an equaliser, sending a stoppage-time header wide. No wonder Jewell's expression turned from one of delight to a thunderous glower.
"I'll give credit where it is due and in the first half we were tremendous," he said. "But if you take your foot off the gas in the Premiership, even if you are 4-1 up, you will get punished. We started doing the wrong things in the wrong areas and we nearly paid for it."
Goals: Sibierski (2) 0-1; Roberts (10) 1-1; McCulloch (22) 2-1; Roberts (44) 3-1; Camara (70) 4-1; Barton (76) 4-2; Cole (88) 4-3.
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Pollitt; Chimbonda, Jackson, De Zeeuw, Baines; Teale (Taylor, 77), Bullard, Kavanagh (Francis, 71), McCulloch; Roberts, Camara (Connolly, 80). Substitutes not used: Filan (gk) Henchoz.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Sommeil (Dunne, 65), Onuoha, Distin, Thatcher; Sinclair, Barton, Reyna (Cole, 65), Sun Jihai; Sibierski, Vassell. Substitutes not used: De Vlieger (gk), Ireland, Wright-Phillips.
Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).
Man of the match: Roberts.
Attendance: 25,017.Reuse content