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Demba Ba served up a reminder of his potency to end Newcastle United's wait for a Barclays Premier League victory against 10-man Wigan.
The 27-year-old's first-half double ended a run of four successive league defeats for the injury-hit Magpies, whose task was rendered easier following the 12th-minute dismissal of Honduras international Maynor Figueroa for a foul on Papiss Cisse.
Ba, who worryingly for his manager limped off late in the game, converted the resulting penalty and then took his tally for the season to 10 with a close-range finish after Davide Santon's shot had been parried, with substitute Gael Bigirimana's superb first goal for the club cementing just a second league victory in 10 attempts.
Newcastle took the lead after Vurnon Anita picked out Ba, who slid the ball into the run of strike partner Papiss Cisse. Figueroa came across to challenge the Senegal international, who ended up in a heap on the ground.
The defender was adjudged to have brought down the striker and consequently dismissed and Ba thumped the spot-kick low to goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi's right to open the scoring.
Until that point, the visitors had more than made a fist of a game in which they knew they would encounter a side short on confidence, with Tim Krul having to dive full length to turn away Franco Di Santo's well-struck fourth-minute effort.
But Figueroa's premature departure changed the shape of the contest and after Ba and Jonas Gutierrez had both gone for goal from distance, manager Roberto Martinez decided to shore up his team by preparing to withdraw the attack-minded Jordi Gomez and send on James McArthur in his place.
However, before he could make the change, the Magpies increased their lead. Left-back Santon headed forward in determined fashion with 21 minutes gone before cutting inside and unleashing a right-footed piledriver which Al Habsi could not handle, and Ba was in the right place at the right time to tap home the rebound.
Any anxiety which the home side had felt evaporated as they started to stroke the ball around and make the most of their numerical advantage. Frenchman Sylvain Marveaux, who had been handed a free role behind Ba with Cisse starting wide on the right, came close with a free-kick that curled inches over the angle of post and crossbar.
Gary Caldwell was replaced by Adrian Lopez at half-time, while Cheick Tiote, who had picked up a knock before the break, was replaced by Bigirimana. Pardew was forced to make a second change within four minutes of the restart when Santon limped off to become the latest man to join a worrying casualty list and was replaced by Shane Ferguson.
To their credit, Wigan took the game to their hosts in the early stages of the half, but it was Al Habsi who had to get down well to keep out Marveaux's 52nd-minute strike after he had turned smartly on to Anita's pass and carved his way into the box.
The Frenchman, enjoying perhaps his best night yet in a black and white shirt, turned provider four minutes later to set up Bigirimana, whose side-footed effort was saved by Al Habsi, and Cisse sent a dipping 59th-minute effort over the bar.
However, the former Coventry City midfielder was not to be denied and when Marveaux found him wide on the right with 19 minutes remaining, he cut inside to unleash a memorable left-footed curler past the keeper and inside the far post.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew: "It was nice to get a break - and I think it was a break, I'm not a great lover of that rule with the penalty and the sending-off. The referee had a tough decision to make, but I think it was a penalty and obviously it put us in a great position.
"I don't think [Demba Ba] was too bad at the end, he said he felt a bit of soreness and we had to take him off.
"It's a big lift for our fans, my staff and my players. The pressure was building, we had a lot of criticism which I thought was unfair and we've had to accept that, and yet our fans were with us from the off. We gave them something to shout about.
"Bigi [Gael Bigirimana] is 18 and has got a big future ahead of him. I don't think he's ready though and he shouldn't be playing in this team if I'm honest. He should be playing in our under-21 team, but we are in such a place that he gets an opportunity and you would like to think that he will take that. "He did more than that - it was a fantastic goal and something he will treasure for the rest of his life."
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez: "It became a very, very difficult game in 10 minutes, giving up a two-goal cushion and a man down. But you will get adversity in football and I'm proud of our reaction in the second half, we never gave up or felt sorry for ourselves."
|10 Dec 2012||v Fulham (A)|
|15 Dec 2012||v Man City (H)|
|22 Dec 2012||v QPR (H)|
|26 Dec 2012||v Man Utd (A)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Arsenal (A)|
|02 Jan 2013||v Everton (H)|