WIGAN’S miserable start to the season continued as Nicky Maynard predictably returned to haunt them in South Wales.
The striker had endured a disappointing spell on loan at Wigan in the second half of last term, managing only four goals in the ultimately unsuccessful bid for promotion.
But he was in the right place at the right time seven minutes into the second half to stab past Scott Carson for the only goal.
Again Latics were unable to convert a decent amount of possession into goals, with goalkeeper David Marshall in top form to keep them out.
He did superbly to tip over a header from Callum McManaman in the first half, and repeated the trick after the break from centre-back Rob Kiernan.
Marshall was then left hopelessly exposed shortly after Cardiff had taken the lead, only for Marc-Antoine Fortune’s control to desert him at the most important moment.
It leaves Latics with a return of one draw and three defeats from their opening four fixtures, and puts even more importance on Saturday’s visit of fellow strugglers Blackpool.
Having started the season strongly, Cardiff unsurprisingly came flying out of the blocks and were almost ahead with their first attack.
Aron Gunnarsson found the ball at his feet 12 yards out, but Carson pulled off a great save at point-blank range.
At the other end McManaman was also quickly into his stride, skinning opposite number Fabio with ease only to see his shot blocked
The resulting corner from Welshman Emyr Huws was headed wide by the returning skipper Emmerson Boyce from a good position.
There was half a shout for a Cardiff penalty on the 20-minute mark as Maynard was grounded under contact from Don Cowie, but the striker appeared to go down far too easily and the official waved play on.
After soaking up most of the pressure, Latics then showed themselves and nearly went in front, when Andrew Taylor’s cross found McManaman inside the area.
The forward’s header was powerful and arrowing towards the roof of the net, only for Marshall to intervene and tip it over the bar.
McManaman then released Fortune through the right channel, although the shot was blocked by a defender.
The rebound fell to McManaman who won his side another corner taken by Huws, which evaded everyone in the middle.
Latics started the second period on top and McManaman won a corner within 90 seconds of the restart.
Again the delivery from Huws was good and Kiernan header’s forced another top-class save from Marshall.
However, hopes of the visitors taking a stranglehold of the game were rocked within seven minutes of the restart.
After Boyce had done well to somehow get between Jones and the goal and nod away a dangerous corner from Peter Whittingham, the red-shirted Bluebirds took the lead.
Fabio provided the initial cross from the left, which was headed back in by Sean Morrison to Jones.
The striker nodded goalwards and it was finished off with aplomb by Maynard, with Carson this time left with no chance.
Credit Latics for their response, though, and they should have equalised almost straight away.
Cowie’s cross from the right was perfect for Fortune at the far post, but the striker’s control was woeful and the grateful goalkeeper was allowed to clear.
James McArthur fired over from the edge of the area as Latics pressed, and the Scot then turned provider for Wigan’s next gilt-edged opportunity.
The Scotland international slid the ball back into the middle from the left into the path of substitute Martyn Waghorn, who could only scoop his effort wide from close range.
Oriol Riera was also off the bench by this point, and the Spaniard was inches away from latching on to a clever through ball from Huws.
Uwe Rosler played his last card with 13 minutes remaining in the form of James Tavernier, who was charged with finding one of the Latics forwards with one of his expert deliveries from the right.
His first attempt successfully found James Perch at the far post, only for the header to fall harmlessly wide of the target.
And the Bradfordian narrowly failed to find Riera and then Waghorn in promising attacking positions as time ran out on Latics.
Latics: Carson; Perch, Boyce, Ramis, Kiernan, Taylor; Cowie, Huws, McArthur; McManaman, Fortune.
Subs: Al Habsi, Tavernier (for Taylor, 77), Caldwell, Barnett, Espinoza, Waghorn (for McManaman, 62), Riera (for Fortune, 62).
Cardiff: Marshall; Brayford, Morrison, Connolly, Fabio; Daehli, Adeyemi, Gunnarsson, Whittingham; Maynard, Jones.
Subs: Moore, Cala, Hudson, Le Fondre (for Maynard, 79), Eikrem, Pilkington (for Daehli, 46), Guerra.
Referee: R Madley
Star Man: Don Cowie