Everton moved up to fourth in the Premier League and sunk Wigan into further trouble with a 2-1 win at Goodison Park on Boxing Day.
Leon Osman's deflected strike gave the hosts the lead early in the second half before Phil Jagielka's header doubled the advantage for a dominant Toffees. Wigan had been second best for much of the match but almost launched a comeback as the tireless Arouna Kone struck late on.
Everton and Wigan both made one change apiece from their last outing, with Johnny Heitinga replaced by Thomas Hitzlsperger for the hosts whilst Franco Di Santo made way for Gary Caldwell in the visitors’ lineup. Darron Gibson featured for the Toffees despite his red card against West Ham due to his hearing with the FA being delayed until Thursday.
And the Latics almost rued that fact immediately, as the former Manchester United man crossed for Nikica Jelavic with seconds on the clock only for Victor Anichebe to blast the Croatian’s lay-off over the bar.
The visitors seemed buoyed by their ability to resist that string of attacks but undermined their own chances of carving out a lead with some poor decision making. Arouna Kone and Shaun Maloney worked hard to carry the ball up the pitch but were easily snuffed out due to a lack of support from the midfield.
A frustrated Everton were dealt a blow when Gibson was forced off with injury during the break. However, the Toffees quickly recovered, with Hitzlsperger striking the bar with a wonderful left-footed drive from 35 yards out.
David Moyes’ side might have felt unfortunate not to take the lead through such a brilliant strike, but were soon handed a sizeable slice of good fortune to make up for it. Osman ducked inside Beasejour far too easily on the right-hand side of the box before releasing a weak, left-footed effort but the Englishman’s strike fooled Al Al-Habsi thanks to a deflection off the hand of Gary Caldwell and landed in the back of the net.
The hosts were understandably buoyed after the goal but missed a chance to double their lead when Nikica Jelavic inexplicably dithered on the ball when clean through on goal.
The game had few real chances from then on and it was perhaps inevitable that the next goal would come from a set piece. Phil Neville provided the cross from substitute Bryan Oviedo's short corner and Jagielka rose highest to nod into the top corner.
The Toffees’ dominance appeared to have led them to believe the game was over after that goal, but they were soon given a reminder that Wigan would not lie down as Kone capitalised on poor communication between Baines and Distin to toe the ball home inside the box.
However, Everton held firm against a late fightback to move themselves into a Champions League qualification place and heap yet more misery on Wigan.