The Scotland striker produced a superb display to hand his side a fifth win in eight league games and heap pressure on Roberto Martinez's relegation-threatened Latics
Steven Fletcher scored twice for Sunderland in a thrilling 3-2 away win over Wigan to ease his side’s relegation worries.
The hosts got off to the perfect start after David Vaughan put the ball into his own net with less than five minutes on the clock, but the Black Cats responded through Craig Gardner’s penalty and a Steven Fletcher double to put them 3-1 up before half-time.
Wigan improved in the second half but, despite substitute Angelo Henriquez’s debut goal, Fletcher’s 10th of the season - and sixth in seven against the Latics - was enough to hand Sunderland their fifth win in eight league games.
Roberto Martinez refrained from throwing new signings Joel Robles, Henriquez and Roger Espinoza straight into Wigan’s starting line-up, instead making just two changes from the side that earned a point at Fulham last weekend. Ronnie Stam replaced the injured Ivan Ramis, while Jordi Gomez came in for David Jones.
The visitors, meanwhile, welcomed defender John O’Shea back from a long injury lay-off at the expense of Matthew Kilgallon, while new signing Alfred N’Diaye replaced James McClean to make his full league debut.
Boasting just one win in their previous nine league outings, the Latics faced a tough task against Martin O’Neill’s improving side but were handed a welcome boost after just four minutes when Vaughan diverted Ronnie Stam’s fluffed finish past Simon Mignolet to give the home side the lead.
Sunderland’s response, however, was swift. N’Diaye and O’Shea came close minutes later, before James McCarthy blocked Sebastian Larsson’s free kick inside the box with his hand, conceding a 15th-minute penalty.
It was the away side’s first spot kick in 34 games but Gardner made it look easy, sending Ali Al-Habsi the wrong way and coolly slotting the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
And just five minutes later, Fletcher put Sunderland ahead after meeting an N’Diaye cross to rifle an acrobatic left-foot volley into the top corner after his initial header was parried.
The goal turned the game on its head and, more worryingly for Wigan, it did not stop there.
Five minutes before half-time, a long ball into the box allowed Adam Johnson to feed Fletcher, who arrowed a powerful yet pinpoint finish into the top corner from the edge of the box to extend Sunderland’s lead.
The home side came out firing after the break, with Shaun Maloney being denied by several impressive Mignolet saves, while Fletcher deflected the ball onto his own crossbar on 68 minutes.
And Henriquez got the hosts back into the game with 10 minutes to go, heading in a Maloney cross for a debut goal.
But Wigan’s second-half pressure ultimately came to nothing as Fletcher & Co. left the DW Stadium with three valuable points to move Sunderland up to 11th place, as the home side dropped into the relegation zone following Reading’s 2-1 win over Newcastle.