Birmingham City 0 Wigan Athletic 1
Dan Burn could not have picked a more opportune moment to register his first goal for Wigan Athletic in a vital 1-0 victory at his former club Birmingham.
The big man had been labelled ‘the best defender in the Championship by stand-in Latics boss Graham Barrow on the eve of the game at St Andrew’s.
And the 6’7 centre-back was in the right place at the right time on 19 minutes to stab home Jamie Hanson’s corner to breathe new life into Wigan’s survival bid.
Latics had gone into the game knowing anything other than three points would have reduced their hopes of avoiding an instant return to League One.
But a real backs-to-the-wall effort means Latics have pulled level with third-bottom Bristol City - their opponents this Saturday at the DW Stadium - and within two points of safety, with 10 games still to go.
Right from the off the visitors adopted a positive approach, with Gabriel Obertan making his first start on the left wing and Alex Gilbey in the first XI for the first time in six months alongside the recalled Max Power.
And Obertan showed some nice touches in the opening exchanges, as Latics looked dangerous on the counter attack.
Blues had an escape on 18 minutes when a Hanson corner was met by the firm forehead of Jake Buxton, with the ball hitting a home defender rather than the other way round, and looping only just over the top.
But the respite was only temporary, with the resulting corner from Hanson finding Burn at the far post, and the ball ending up in ther home net.
Blues threatened for the first time when Josh Dacres-Cogley sent over a dangerous cross that was well snaffled by Matt Gilks.
But Latics ended the half on top, with Hanson and Michael Jacobs sending free-kicks just over the bar, and Gilbey firing into the side-netting when he might have done better.
Birmingham made a couple of attacking changes at the break, but the visitors picked up where they’d left off after the restart, with right-back Callum Connolly warming the hands of Blues goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak from distance.
Gilbey then got the better of former Latics loan defender Ryan Shotton, only for his shot to again nestle in the side-netting rather than the back of the net.
Che Adams fired over the bar in a rare Birmingham attack, but still the Latics defence was still successfully keeping them at arm’s length.
David Perkins, on for the injured Power, almost got in on the act, although his shot from distance was predictably miles off target.
Latics then made their final two substitutions inside the final quarter with Josh Laurent and James Weir replacing Obertan and Gilbey, to add some energy ready for the inevitable final push from Birmingham.
But Gilks was able to watch a long-range shot from Kerim Frei fly way over the top, before Buxton put his body on the line to clear a dangerous cross from Emilio Nsue.
The home side were appealing for a penalty for handball with three minutes to go, but it was a plea of utter desperation rather than any real conviction and was rightly waved away by referee Scott Duncan.
Frei fired a half-volley inches over the top as the 90-minute mark approached, but Burn and Buxton were able to stand firm for the three minutes of added time to secure a famous victory in the fight for survival.