Steven Fletcher fired Sunderland to their first Barclays Premier League victory of the season with his fifth goal in four games.
The 25-year-old turned James McClean's 51st-minute cross-shot past Ali Al Habsi 10-man Wigan Athletic were made to pay for Jordi Gomez's red card. Gomez was sent off just two minutes into the second half for a lunge at defender Danny Rose and a game in which his side had enjoyed the better of the opening 45 minutes turned on its head.
Martin O'Neill will have been delighted to see his Sunderland team end a 12-game wait for a league victory dating back to last season, but it might have been very different had it not been for his goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The Belgium international pulled off vital first-half saves from James McCarthy and Arouna Kone to keep the visitors at bay as the home side struggled to find any real rhythm.
However, the sending-off gave them fresh impetus and they never looked like surrendering their lead.
Wigan could have been ahead with just four minutes gone when James McCarthy’s left-foot shot was blocked by Mignolet. From the resulting corner, the ball was cleared only as far as Gomez on the edge of the box, and he blasted a volley over.
Mignolet came to the rescue once again with 15 minutes on the clock when Jean Beausejour crossed from the left to pick out Kone at the far post. He seemed certain to score, but Mignolet somehow managed to bundle his effort from point-blank range around the post.
For their part, Sunderland struggled to created but came close to taking the lead with 28 minutes played when Sebastian Larsson's free-kick from the left evaded attackers and defenders alike as it sped across the penalty area before being hacked off the line by Ivan Ramis.
But the half finished as it had started with Wigan threatening once again two minutes before the whistle when McCarthy again sent a long-range effort inches wide with Mignolet diving desperately to his left.
Roberto Martinez will no doubt have been happy as his side returned to the dressing room, but his mood will have changed markedly within two minutes of the restart. There seemed to be little danger as left-back Danny Rose picked up possession on halfway, but Gomez leapt in to leave the Sunderland man in a heap and referee Howard Webb produced a red card.
The home side made their numerical advantage count within four minutes when James McClean broke into the box and appeared to drag his shot across the face of goal. The ball fell perfectly for Fletcher, who swept it home.
O'Neill's men were re-energised and immediately set about the task of killing the game off with Stephane Sessegnon forcing Ali Al Habsi into a 54th-minute save before Craig Gardner blasted over from long range.
Martinez sent on striker Franco di Santo for Maloney on the hour, but the game was slipping from his side's grasp. Neither side was able to exert any measure of control as time ran down, but Sunderland held out to claim three valuable points.
|06 Oct 2012||v Man City (A)|
|21 Oct 2012||v Newcastle (H)|
|27 Oct 2012||v Stoke (A)|
|03 Nov 2012||v Aston Villa (H)|
|10 Nov 2012||v Everton (A)|
|18 Nov 2012||v Fulham (A)|