A wonderful strike from substitute James Milner and a first league goal of the season from Mario Balotelli was enough for Manchester City to earn a hard-fought victory away at Premier League strugglers Wigan.
The reigning league champions were uninspiring for much of the contest, but a two-minute double in the second half ensured the visitors kept up the pressure on rivals Manchester United at the summit of the Premier League.
Wigan more than held their own for large parts of the game, but an error from the otherwise highly-dependable Ali Al-Habsi midway through the second half was ruthlessly punished by the visitors, who then saw out the contest with relative ease.
Roberto Martinez’s men could have made in a much more tricky evening for their opponents if they had taken any of the glorious chances that went their way, with Arouna Kone particularly culpable when he headed wide under no pressure in the six-yard box when he really should have tested Joe Hart.
They had their chances in the opening period too with both sides sharing periods of dominance, but lacking quality in the final third.
It took until the 45th minute of the half before the visitors registered a first shot on target, when giant midfielder Yaya Toure powered his way towards the byline, only for his shot to be batted away by Wigan keeper Al-Habsi at his near post.
Up until that point it was Martinez’s men who had looked the more likely to break the deadlock, with Kone causing problems with his pace and power.
Indeed it was the Ivorian who had the first chance of the game when he found some space on the edge of the City area, however his shot was tame and was easily gathered by Joe Hart.
But that was not the only chance Wigan had in the opening 45 minutes, with Jordi Gomez threatening from a free-kick, the lively Jean Beausejour having a shot blocked and Kone again doing well when he headed a Ronnie Stam cross narrowly over Hart’s crossbar.
After a tidy build-up involving Maicon and David Silva, Gareth Barry found himself in acres of space on the edge of Wigan’s penalty area and his powerful drive at goal was not properly dealt with by Al-Habsi, who fumbled the ball into the path of Balotelli who lashed a shot past the helpless Oman international to give City a scarcely-deserved lead.
Minutes later and they doubled their advantage thanks to a wonderful strike from James Milner. Silva was again involved in the build-up as he teased the Wigan defence before finding Milner in acres of space on the edge of the Wigan penalty box, and he smashed a shot past the helpless Al-Habsi to effectively kill the game as a contest.
Gomez also had an ambitious appeal for a penalty turned down when he went down rather easily after a tussle in the area with City’s stand-in left-back Pablo Zabaleta.