Nottingham Forest’s interest in the Capital One Cup ended on a night of spectacular action at The City Ground.
Free-flowing Wigan stormed into a 3-0 half-time lead on the back of some exquisite approach play and stunning finishing.
But Sean O’Driscoll’s men dusted themselves down at the break, gave themselves hope with a wonder goal of their own through Simon Cox and looked capable of getting back into the contest when the Premier League side were reduced to ten men in the 77th minute following the sending off of Antolin Alcaraz.
Wigan, however, resisted Forest’s comeback attempts and struck a fourth goal on the break just a minute from time.
It was Forest’s first competitive defeat of the new season but there were nevertheless plusses from them to reflect on – not least the welcome return of midfielder Chris Cohen after his long journey back to full fitness from knee surgery.
Much to the delight of the home crowd, Cohen was in the thick of the action from the start when both sides launched themselves forward at every opportunity.
But it was Wigan who broke the deadlock in the 24th minute with a fluent move from back to front. It started with Alcaraz feeding the highly-influential Jordi Gomez and when he put Ronnie Stam clear down the right, Mauro Boselli was perfectly positioned to power home a close range header.
Eleven minutes later Wigan doubled their lead with an outstanding strike. There seemed little on for Maynor Figueroa but he let fly from 30 yards with a bullet of a shot that flew into the top corner past an almost disbelieving Lee Camp.
Wigan were in full flight at that stage and added a third two minutes before half-time when Albert Crusat fed Gomez, who produced a superb shot from distance that again left Camp helpless.
Forest badly needed to get something at the start of the second half and it duly arrived when Cox robbed defender Ivan Ramis 40 yards and advanced before thundering a right foot shot past Ali Al-Hasbi.
It was the spark Forest needed to pile on more pressure and David McGoldrick and Andy Reid went close in quick succession as the pressure mounted on the visitors’ goal.
But Wigan stood firm until the 77th minute when Alcaraz picked up his second yellow card in eight minutes for a crude challenge on Guy Moussi.
That was the signal for more frenzied activity around the Wigan goal and the contest might easily have turned Forest’s way had Al-Hasbi not clawed away a deflected shot by McGoldrick after Reid had picked him out.
But Wigan survived that scare to absorb more Forest pressure and hit The Reds with a lightning attack near the end.
The ball was played quickly out of defence to Ryo Miyaichi and he found fellow substitute Callum McManaman, who coolly set himself up for a shot that ended any lingering hopes Forest had of rescuing what always looked a forlorn position after the first 45 minutes.
Forest: Camp, Halford (Lascelles 78'), Ayala (Moloney 62'), Collins (c), Harding, Cohen (Majewski 66'), Moussi, Gillett, Reid, McGoldrick, Cox
Subs not used: Evtimov (GK), Gudeioura, Greening, Blackstock.
Scorer: Cox 47'
Booking: Gillett 71'
Wigan: Stam, Al-Habsi, Ramis, Alcaraz (c), Figueroa, Beausejour, Watson, Jones, Crusat (Miyaichi 80'), Gomez (McMananman 71'), Boselli (Fyvie 83').
Subs not used: Pollitt (GK), Kone, Di Santo, Lopez.
Scorer: Boselli 25', Figueroa 35', Gomez 44', McManaman 90'
Booking: Alcaraz 69'
Sent off: Alcaraz 78' (2nd yellow card)
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Attendance: 7,545 (Away: 250)