CALLUM McManaman’s dream debut kept Latics on the Wembley trail – and shows the future of the club is in safe hands.
For the second year in a row, Latics saw off the Tigers at the third-round stage of this famous competition.
But unlike last season, when they were indebted to established star Charles N’Zogbia for their safe passage, this time it was Roberto Martinez’s strength in reserve who stole the headlines.
New-boy Adrian Lopez made an assured debut at the back alongside stand-in skipper Steven Caldwell, forgotten man Daniel de Ridder had a fine game down both flanks, while there were bows for teenagers Jordan Robinson, Daniel Redmond and Jordan Mustoe off the bench.
There was also a return to form in the centre of the park for two-goal Momo Diame, who finally showed glimpses of an end product to his otherwise-complete game.
But it was the influence of McManaman, making his first start for Wigan, that will have most pleased Martinez as Latics safely negotiated a potentially tricky trip to Hull and back.
The teenage scouser has been a regular on the bench in recent weeks, with Latics in the midst of an injury crisis, but on this form he looks ready to stake a claim for a regular shirt even when the likes of Franco di Santo, Victor Moses and James McCarthy are back in the fold.
The Wigan boss had predictably rung the changes, retaining only Hendry Thomas, James McArthur and Maynor Figueroa from the team that drew at Bolton in midweek.
Emmerson Boyce also returned after nearly three months out with hamstring trouble, while there was also a first appearance at first-team level since May 2009 for De Ridder, who almost scored with his first touch.
Inside the first minute, Jordi Gomez’s cross was steered goalwards by the Dutchman only for Matt Duke to make the save at the expense of a corner.
From the set-piece, Gomez struck the outside of the post, although it was a wasted opportunity with the likes of Lopez, Boyce and Caldwell having made their way into the box.
De Ridder, whose contract is up in the summer, then launched a stinging drive from 25 yards that forced another very good save from Duke.
The winger had another chance on 17 minutes, and he really ought to have done better after good work in the midfield from McArthur.
De Ridder cut in from the left on to his favoured right foot, but his attempt to curl the ball into the top corner was well off target to his own obvious frustration.
The visitors were making all of the running, and it was no surprise when they took the lead midway through the first half.
McManaman did ever so well to arrow in a super cross from the right and, although Diame’s control was poor, he got a second chance when De Ridder prodded the ball against the goalkeeper, and this time the Frenchman couldn’t miss.
It was nearly 2-0 within a minute when Boyce crossed from the right and De Ridder’s shot found only the side-netting with Duke scrambling.
Ali Al Habsi was a virtual spectator in goal with Latics asking all the questions, and the visitors threatened again on the half-hour mark.
McManaman played in De Ridder, who elected to cut inside instead of shooting and got crowded out, the youngster eventually getting a shot in only to clear the bar from outside the box.
The Tigers had their first sight of goal 10 minutes before the interval, but Matt Fryatt – making his home debut following his arrival from Leicester – lobbed over Al Habsi and onto the roof of the net.
Former Latics man Jimmy Bullard unsuccessfully tried his luck from fully 35 yards with Al Habsi almost having to come off his line to collect, before Fryatt again saw the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes, only to prod well wide from a good position.
After an almost-totally dominant first period, the only criticism was that Latics had not already booked their place in the hat for the fourth round.
They almost took a huge step to doing just that within two minutes of the restart, when De Ridder found himself in acres down the left, only for his shot to hit the inside of the far post and away to safety.
Hull at least forced Al Habsi into a save of some description through Jay Simpson’s header, before Wigan added their second on 55 minutes.
De Ridder fed McManaman down the left, and the 19-year-old showed remarkable composure to bide his time, dummying a couple of defenders, before striking a lovely shot into the far corner.
That was the signal for Hull to withdraw Simpson and Bullard, the latter having ‘enjoyed’ a torrid chasing against the club he helped into the Premier League six seasons ago.
Latics, too, made a switch, Teessider Robinson coming on for his first appearance in place of Lopez alongside the reassuring presence of Caldwell.
De Ridder almost made it three with 20 minutes left, his shot curling towards the top corner before the intervention of Duke’s fingertips.
From the resulting corner, McManaman was also denied by the goalkeeper as Latics continued to pepper the home goal.
A nervous last 15 minutes looked to have been set up when veteran striker Nick Barmby escaped Figueroa to volley home Andy Dawson’s cross from close range, with Al Habsi left totally exposed.
But De Ridder released Diame two minutes later, and the Frenchman lifted the ball over Duke to restore Wigan’s two-goal advantage.
Al Habsi had to be on guard to parry a screamer from Tigers substitute Jamie Devitt, before De Ridder was again denied by the excellent Duke.
With the game seemingly won, Martinez took the opportunity to bring on Redmond and Mustoe for their first-team debuts.
And although Barmby added his second with a well-placed header from Devitt’s cross in the very last minute, anything other than a Wigan win would have been an absolute travesty of justice.
The visitors’ profligacy was shown again in injury time when the otherwise excellent De Ridder blazed high and wide with only Duke to beat, but there was no time for the Tigers to mount one final attack.