Saints fell to a narrow defeat in their first ever league meeting with the Latics.
Goals at the start and end of the second half from the visitors were enough to earn Roberto Martinez’s men all three points in Nigel Adkins’ 100th game in charge of the hosts.
Franco Di Santo’s thunderous 51st minute strike was added to in the last minute of the 90 by Arouna Kone who broke away late on with Saints on the attack to slot in a second goal which flattered the visitors.
Wigan had goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi to thank for keeping the hosts at bay, as he produced a string of top drawer saves that denied Adkins ‘men from getting the foothold in the game they deserved.
For long periods of the contest Saints had the upper hand in terms of chances and possession, but Wigan’s resilience and patience led to them striking at the right time as they took full advantage of the few chances that came their way.
It was the eleventh consecutive game that the Latics have scored away from home in the Premier League, as Saints were beaten in their first top flight match at St Mary’s for seven years.
Saints: K. Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox, S. Davis (Ward-Prowse 75), Schneiderlin, Lallana (c), Guly, Lambert, Rodriguez (Sharp 75). Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Richardson, Shaw, Seaborne, Puncheon.
Wigan: Al Habsi, Kone, Alcaraz, McCarthy, Caldwell, Di Santo (Gomez 67), Maloney (Beausejour 75), McArthur, Boyce, Ramis, Figueroa. Subs (not used): Pollitt, Jones, Crusat, Watson, Boselli.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Nigel Adkins made two changes to his starting line up with both Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis coming in to the side, replacing Jason Puncheon and James Ward-Prowse who dropped to the bench.
Steven Davis and Rickie Lambert ended Saints’ exile from the Premier League as they got the match underway with the hosts in red and white - attacking the Chapel stand on a mild afternoon inside St Mary’s.
In a positive opening from Nigel Adkins’ men, Jay Rodriguez won an early free-kick for the home side as he tried to speed away down the left hand side. The resulting set piece was swung in by Lallana and narrowly avoided by Jos Hooiveld as the defender steamed in to try and meet it inside the area.
The early signs were good from Saints with Lallana seeing his volley blocked after latching on to Fox’s cross from the left, but patience was the key word as the visitors soon began to enjoy a spell of possession through midfield.
It was from a more direct approach that Roberto Martinez’s men got their first sniff of goal as Gary Caldwell’s punt down field was latched onto by Franco Di Santo, but Kelvin Davis was quickly off his line to stop the threat.
On 14 Saints came close to breaking the deadlock when Lallana smashed a rising shot towards goal which Al-Habsi got the slightest of finger-tips to which touched it on to the bar.
Some further neat one touch passing from the home side preceded Lambert seeing a header from eight yards out saved low to his right, with Saints beginning to build up a head of steam.
Opportunities continued to come the way of the hosts, with Caldwell putting a timely challenge on Lallana to force a corner, before another free-kick from Lallana narrowly escaped the clutches of Guly who was diving in to meet it.
There was a concern for the home side in the 28th minute when Fox struggled to get back onto his feet after a collision with one of the Wigan defenders after he had broken forward to join the attack.
The delay for treatment gave players on both sides a chance to catch their breaths and take drinks before the full back returned to action with fresh instructions for the last 15 minutes of the half.
Wigan threatened through Emmerson Boyce’s cross from the right which Maynor Figueroa volleyed into the side of Jose Fonte, but it remained a tight and even contest as both teams looked to hit on the break.
Arouna Kone nearly made full use of the first opportunity to stretch his legs, but Schneiderlin’s block created the chance for Rodriguez to hit back at the other end – although the eventual chance for Lallana unfortunately came to nothing.
In an entertaining closing few moments of the first 45 played out in heavy rain, Di Santo blazed wide from an acute angle, and headed wide from Boyce’s cross, either side of Rodriguez going close for the hosts, but the game remained goalless heading into the interval.
Half Time: Saints 0-0 Wigan
Refreshed from their break Saints were determined to make things happen at the start of the second period but were frustrated by the resilience shown by the Latics.
On 50 Guly dug out a cross which Lambert headed powerfully towards the bottom corner, but despite a spill from Al-Habsi the Wigan glovesman did enough to keep the effort out and away from danger.
It paid dividends for the visitors around a minute or so later when Shaun Maloney’s well weighted through-ball was picked up by DI SANTO who angled a fierce shot into the top of Davis’s net for a lead Wigan scarcely deserved.
Saints sought a quick response with Rodriguez forcing a corner which broke out to Fox and the full back’s thumping drive was brilliantly kept out by Al-Habsi, who was proving to be a steel wall as last line of the defence.
There were no panics from the hosts who continued to test their opponents, and Al-Habsi was called upon once more in the 63rd minute to deny Lambert’s stinging strike from range after the forward had collected a neat move involving Fox and Lallana from halfway.
Jordi Gomez replaced goal scorer Di Santo for the visitors with 23 minutes remaining with Wigan remaining patient, but almost adding to their tally when substitute Gomez produced a first class save from Davis who was on his mettle to deny the visitors from extending their lead.
Adkins made a double change on 75 as Steven Davis was withdrawn in favour of James Ward-Prowse, and Billy Sharp replaced Rodriguez, whilst Athletic introduced Jean Beausejour for Malone.
Saints turned the screw and nearly levelled on 78 when Lambert’s cross into the area was headed onto the bar by Hooiveld, with the ball taking an eternity to drop before it frustratingly bounced out of play for the hosts.
At the other end, a swift break almost saw the Latics take full advantage of the pace at their disposal in attack with Gomez and Kone linking up impressively, before the latter dragged his shot wide when placed one-on-one with Davis.
Six minutes from time, Lambert picked out Lallana inside the area, and he turned the Wigan backline inside and out before drilling a low shot at Al-Habsi, who managed to turn the shot behind to safety.
The win was made safe in the closing stages of the 90 minutes when Fonte lost possession on the halfway line and Arouna KONE kept his cool to finish calmly past Davis for 2-0.
Kone was replaced by Mauro Boselli in four minutes of stoppage time as the visitors celebrated victory.
Full Time: Saints 0-2 Wigan