NICK Powell was the hero as FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic booked their place in the fourth round of the competition with a 3-1 victory at MK Dons after extra-time.
The on-loan Manchester United midfielder came off the bench to score twice and ensure Latics will face Crystal Palace a week on Saturday.
Wigan were way below-par for the majority of the third round replay but their higher fitness level showed in extra-time.
Powell cancelled out Luke Chadwick’s opener before giving Wigan the lead in the first minute of extra-time. Marc-Antoine Fortune then added the visitors’ third to put the game to bed.
It was a very poor 90 minutes from the Cup holders who were second best for the majority.
It took just 10 minutes for Chadwick to open the scoring when he steered his effort into the bottom corner with the Dons applying plenty of early pressure.
Latics made inroads to get back into the game but Fraser Fyvie’s crafty shot from the edge of the box was well saved by David Martin in the MK goal.
It was the hosts who remained dominant throughout the remainder of the half and were it not for Ali Al Habsi, they could have been out of sight by the break.
He first pulled off a great stop to deny a Shaun Williams free-kick before Lee Hodson’s goal-bound half-volley was put behind for a corner.
The Dons continued to pour forward, exploiting Latics’ makeshift back three which included midfielders Chris McCann and Ben Watson.
Al Habsi nearly undid all his hard work when he scuffed his clearance with the ball landing right in the path of Daniel Powell whose shot sailed wide.
Latics tried to force an equaliser before the break with Roger Espinoza curling an effort just the wrong side of the post.
The visitors didn’t up the tempo much after half-time though with MK remaining on top.
Fyvie did have another two efforts from distance but they were both well wide before MK nearly doubled their lead after superb work in the area from substitute Dean Bowditch.
Bowditch came close again with 20 minutes to go when his deflected effort was tipped over by Al Habsi. From the resulting corner, Ben Reeves fired just over the bar.
Uwe Rosler added a little more firepower into his side’s attack with Powell replacing Fyvie while Jordi Gomez and Emmerson Boyce came on for James McClean and James Perch.
It was a move which paid off with little more than 10 minutes of normal time remaining.
As the Dons pushed for a second, Latics broke and McCann’s pinpoint cross was met by Powell who stabbed home the equaliser from close-range.
The remainder of the game was relatively entertaining with both sides having chances to win it, the best coming after Watson obstructed a Dons attacker on the edge of the box deep into stoppage time.
Williams’ free-kick was just inches wide as the game ended 1-1 and headed into extra-time.
Within a minute of the re-start though, it was the cup holders who took the lead for the first time in the game.
A superb ball from Boyce played in Powell who delicately placed it to the goalkeeper’s left handside and into the net via the post.
Latics nearly extended their lead when Gomez went through on goal minutes later only to place his shot wide.
However, Wigan did go two goals clear just before half-time when great work inside the box from Fortune ended with him firing a great effort into the bottom corner.
As the clock ticked down, man-of-the-match Al Habsi did superbly to first stop a fierce shot at goal before scrambling well to collect the ball from the feet of an MK player.
Latics: Al Habsi; Barnett, Watson, McCann; Perch, Fyvie, McArthur, Espinoza, Crainey; McClean, Fortune.
Subs: Nicholls, Boyce (for Perch 60), Garcia, Redmond, Beausejour, Gomez (for McClean 72), Powell (for Fyvie 60).
MK Dons: Martin; Hodson, Kay, Williams, Lewington; Chadwick, Gleeson, Carruthers, Potter, Reeves; Powell.
Subs: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Bowditch (for Chadwick 58), Smith (for Carruthers 95), McLeod, Baldock (for Powell 95), Galloway.