WILL Grigg blasted a brilliant hat-trick as Wigan Athletic recorded a routine 3-0 victory over a hapless Port Vale outfit to move to within two points of automatic promotion.
Vale arrived at the DW Stadium in fine form, but were outmuscled, outgunned and outclassed long before they were outnumbered following the 39th-minute sending-off of Ryan McGivern.
The big centre-back literally rugby-tackled Grigg to the floor inside the penalty area to leave referee Darren Drysdale with no option but to point to the spot and brandish red.
Grigg - who had opened the scoring in the seventh minute - exacted the perfect revenge by slotting home the spot-kick off the underside of the crossbar.
And he completed his hat-trick midway through the second period with a clinical finish to put Vale out of their misery.
The Wigan supporters also got their first look at new-boys Sam Morsy and Ryan Colclough, who appeared off the bench in the second period.
With promotion rivals Burton, Gillingham and Coventry all losing - and Walsall without a game - it could scarcely have been a better day for boss Gary Caldwell.
The Latics chief had been able to recall Grigg to his starting XI after injury, and the Northern Ireland international wasted no time in announcing his return.
Yanic Wildschut’s quick feet created the opportunity, and Grigg sneaked in ahead of centre-back Richard Duffy to poke Latics in front with only six minutes gone.
Vale recovered well and threatened the Wigan goal on the 15-minute mark, with Jussi Jaaskelainen doing well to touch a Louis Dodds header round the post.
But it was mostly one-way traffic as Chris McCann saw a shot deflect just past the upright, before Haris Vuckic turned down a gilt-edged chance to shoot only to see Vale goalkeeper Jak Alnwick race off his line and nip the ball off his toes.
Grigg was looking razor sharp, and was close to getting on the end of a teasing cross from Reece Wabara as half-time approached.
The ball eventually found its way out to McCann, who drilled just wide of the post from the edge of the area.
Wabara - the scorer of a great goal at Crewe last week - again tried his luck from distance, only for Alnwick to parry away his effort.
Latics were given another scare nine minutes before half-time when Ajay Leitch-Smith skipped past Craig Morgan and forced another good save from Jaaskelainen at full stretch.
However, Vale’s hopes of getting back in to the game were effectively ended seconds later when Grigg got the wrong side of McGivern through the right channel.
As the Latics man shaped to shoot, he was dropped by a tackle more appropriate to deny Wigan Warriors than Wigan Athletic - which ended his own personal involvement.
Grigg dusted himself down before converting the penalty, and Latics were well on their way.
The rest of the game was all about damage limitation for Vale, with the only question being how interested Latics were in filling their boots and improving their goal difference.
It was almost 3-0 on the 55-minute mark when Wildschut cut in from the left wing only to slice his shot well wide of the far post.
Vuckic then saw a shot blocked and Max Power had another effort deflected behind for a corner.
New signing Colclough replaced Vuckic on the hour mark, to a rousing reception from the home fans and pantomime boos from the away end, on account of his Crewe ties.
Power fired inches past the far post as the game ticked into the final quarter, before Grigg did eventually add number three with a lovely side-foot finish from 10 yards.
That was the signal for Morsy to take over from Power, with the new man welcomed on to the field by the Wigan supporters and also the away fans who had once idolised him before his sale to Chesterfield.
Grigg would have had a fourth goal had Colclough looked up and seen him unmarked in the centre, only to keep his head down and direct a low shot wide of the far post.
As the game petered out, all that was left was for Grigg to receive his deserved ovation as he made way for Jordy Hiwula, with Latics able to slow down to first gear to see out as routine a victory as could be imagined.