Sunderland 4 Wigan Athletic 2

Mohamed Diame opens the scoring for Wigan
Mohamed Diame opens the scoring for Wigan

IT’S never nice when a fine run of form comes to an end. It’s even worse when you ship four goals in the process.

But like the victory over Blackpool was never going to secure survival, Saturday’s 4-2 defeat certainly doesn’t crush any dreams, with the relegation zone being more open than ever.

However, Latics are back in the bottom three again.

What is probably the most frustrating aspect of the result to take though is that Sunderland’s most rampant spell came when three of their key players had gone off with injuries.

A superb strike from Mohamed Diame and a first goal for Franco Di Santo would, on most other days, be a cause to celebrate but they now merely act as a buffer for Latics in terms of goal difference.

It was at the back where Latics just seemed to implode, conceding three goals in 18 second half minutes.

Sunderland were under a great deal of pressure; desperate to end their run of one victory in 11 Premier League games.

Steve Bruce had attributed much of their abysmal form to injuries and suspensions and his luck didn’t get much better when Phil Bardsley was stretchered off inside five minutes, being replaced by Anton Ferdinand.

There was a six minute break before the play resumed as the defender received oxygen after he clashed heads with teammate Nedum Onuoha.

It was Sunderland asking the questions early doors as they put a lot of pressure on Wigan’s back four but some excellent defending and perfect marking prevented the Black Cats from creating any clear cut chances until the 25th minute.

Ahmed Elmohamady crossed but Asamoah Gyan could only manage a dreary header which was well wide of the target.

The home side’s injury woes were dented another blow when Danny Welbeck, who was initially believed to be out of the fixture altogether before kick off, hobbled off a minute later.

And as anxiety crept around the Stadium of Light, Latics decided to turn it up a notch.

James McCarthy was like a terrier in the midfield, winning possession back and bringing Diame and Tom Cleverley into the action.

And when Cleverley caught the Sunderland defence napping, he stole the ball 20 yards from goal and played it to Hugo Rodallega who unleashed a fierce drive at goal, only for Simon Mignolet to parry wide.

Latics continued to press and when Charles N’Zogbia’s effort was blocked after he had cut inside the box, the home fans began to get impatient just before half-time.

Gyan started to ask some real questions of Latics immediately after the break though.

After pickpocketing Watson and seeing his shot deflected wide, he forced Ali Al Habsi to tip his header over from the resulting corner.

And they were very much made to rue that chance minutes later as Wigan took the lead not long after.

Some great work in midfield saw Diame find himself in acres of space 25 yards from goal and his effort couldn’t have been hit any sweeter as it sailed into the top corner, sending the Latics fans behind the goal into raptures.

Apprehension soon turned into anger and the home side were forced to go all out, ensuring Wigan’s lead wasn’t there for long.

The ever-dangerous Gyan powered his header home after Malbranque’s cross.

And then, just when Sunderland thought their injury worries couldn’t get any worse, Gyan was stretchered off with a hamstring injury.

At first, Latics fans would be forgiven to think that this would put a huge dent in Sunderland’s attack. How wrong they were.

Sunderland-born Jordan Henderson took a fine touch inside the box after Latics failed to clear their lines and struck a fierce drive into the top corner with 66 minutes on the clock.

Martinez reacted quick, sending Victor Moses on for McCarthy, trying to up the pressure on Ferdinand who was filling in at left back.

But Sunderland were on the ascendency and when N’Zogbia carelessly lost possession during a Latics attack five minutes later, the Black Cats counter-attacked and won themselves what looked like a controversial penalty.

Antolin Alcaraz appeared to shoulder barge Stephane Sessegnon but he was adjudged to have fouled as referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot.

Sessegnon picked himself up and slotted home to seal the three points for the home side.

Latics failed to come up with any decent reply as Ronnie Stam was thrown on for Emmerson Boyce.

And the Mackems had their fourth when Henderson was left totally unmarked inside the box in the 77th minute. He latched onto Sessegnon’s cross and rubbed salt firmly in Latics’ wounds.

Martinez’s last throw of the dice saw Franco Di Santo replace N’Zogbia who had failed to get out of second gear throughout the game.

To Latics’ credit, they kept on going until the last.

Di Santo fired in his first goal for the club in the 90th minute when he latched onto Moses’ cross to fire home a consolation goal for the Latics.