WIGAN Athletic remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League table - but will be full of confidence after a rousing response to last weekend’s disappointment against Swansea.
Despite falling behind to an early goal from Wes Hoolahan, Latics dominated in virtually every area from then on and their second-half equaliser from Victor Moses was thoroughly merited.
The introduction of Shaun Maloney at the start of the second period helped tip the scales in Wigan’s favour, the Scot laying on Moses’ goal and then teeing up Momo Diame for what looked to be a tap-in right at the death.
But the Senegal international snatched at the chance, and saw his shot slam into the turf and then arrow over the crossbar to the relief of almost everyone inside the stadium.
Hugo Rodallega also thought he’d won it for Latics with time running out, but his acrobatric volley flew just wide of the post.
Roberto Martinez had made a couple of changes to the side that lost so convincingly last weekend, and it was two of the three players whose exclusion caused Dave Whelan to demand an explanation who were promoted to the starting side.
Moses and Rodallega came in for Franco di Santo and Conor Sammon, the latter not even making a bench that did contain Maloney and Callum McManaman as well as Diame.
Norwich had gone into the game having virtually secured their top-flight status despite being one of the pre-season favourites for the drop.
They’d clearly come a long way since hanging on for a point at the DW on the opening day, and tore into Latics from the outset.
Wigan, on the other hand, understandably looked short of confidence given their precarious position at the foot of the table.
An uncharacteristic mistake from Ali Al Habsi - who played the ball straight out for a throw-in 30 yards from goal - handed the initiative to the home side with 10 minutes on the clock.
And 10 seconds later, the ball was in the back of his net.
Three Wigan defenders seemed to switch off, allowing Simeon Jackson to take delivery of a quickly-take throw-in on the edge of the visitors’ box.
The striker’s cross looked meat and drink for Gary Caldwell to clear but, as the Wigan skipper waited for the ball to arrive, Hoolahan nipped in to stab past Al Habsi.
Hoolahan clearly likes playing against Latics, having netted the equaliser in the 1-1 draw back in August.
There then followed a period of sustained pressure from Norwich, and Latics had to hang on for dear life knowing a second goal would have made their task virtually impossible.
Norwich were claiming a penalty soon after when Jackson’s shot struck the arm of Caldwell, but the Scot was standing barely five yards away and couldn’t have done a lot about it.
Having weathered the storm, Latics then began to play some decent stuff of their own and fashioned a few chances that, on another day, might have led to a goal.
Lovely interplay from Emmerson Boyce, Moses and Rodallega resulted in the Colombian firing straight at John Ruddy when a couple of yards either way would surely have brought about a leveller.
After a quiet start, Jordi Gomez began to see a lot more of the ball in the home half, and the Spaniard saw a snap-shot from distance only parried by Ruddy.
Rodallega looked a certain scorer as he arrived at the rebound first, but his shot appeared to deflected over by a despairing defender - although referee Kevin Friend added salt to the wounds by awarding a goal-kick.
Boyce then came close to notching a rare goal, his cross deflecting off Adam Drury and looping over the head of Ruddy - only to rebound off the crossbar and away to safety.
At the other end, Jackson had James McCarthy backtracking into his own box, but the shot was high and wide and Al Habsi was able to watch it sail into the home fans behind his goal.
That was a rare Norwich attack in the second half of the opening period, though, and Wigan almost found an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Rodallega it was who this time tried his luck from distance, again Ruddy was unable to hold it, and the goalkeeper was lucky the ball spun back into his hands with Moses steaming in for a tap-in.
Moses was at it again inside the opening 30 seconds of the second stanza, weaving his magic down the left and threading a nice ball into the middle.
However, James McArthur was unable to take the ball in his strike and the chance had gone.
Barely a minute later, Latics were in again when McCarthy played a neat one-two with Rodallega and advanced into the area, but his finish was straight down Ruddy’s throat and this time his handling was up to scratch.
Latics were enjoying a virtual monopoly of possession and territory as the hour mark approached, but unable to go that final yard - pretty much the story of most of their season.
Moses had a half-shout for a penalty after appearing to be tripped by Drury, while Maynor Figueroa was only just wide with a daisy-cutter from distance that whistled past the far post.
Boss Martinez showed his hand early by withdrawing Gomez for Maloney 11 minutes after the restart, and the Scot was quickly into the game in the hole just off Rodallega.
Steve Morison replaced Grant Holt for the home side, and the Welsh international led a rare break into the Wigan half on the hour mark.
His cross found Jackson, and it took a great block from Alcaraz to deny him, the Paraguayan completing the clearance to launch another visiting attack.
A Moses corner found Maloney at the near post, and it took a good save from Ruddy to turn the ball round the post.
But the goal that had been coming for so long finally arrived midway through the second period.
Maloney created the opportunity, with an exquisite through ball that allowed Moses to race through one-on-one.
Ruddy tried his best to narrow the angle, but Moses gave him the eyes before taking it round the goalkeeper and sliding into an empty net.
With a quarter of the game still to play, Latics had all the momentum and the home crowd - that had been so vociferous in their support for their team in the first half - started to voice their displeasure and frustration.
That manifested itself onto the field, and four Canaries - Holt, Hoolihan, Zak Whitbread and Drury - all had their names taken in a relatively short period of time.
Drury’s caution came for a thigh-high lunge on Moses after Ruddy had been forced to race off his line to prevent Rodallega reaching McArthur’s ball through - and other referees may have chosen to brandish red with replays showing it was a rather nasty challenge.
The official then redresssed the balance somewhat by taking the names of McCarthy and Alcaraz - deservedly so - for equally cynical tugs to ground Hoolahan and Jackson.
Having been pegged back, Norwich then tried to up their game and had a couple of chances in the space of a minute to restore their advantage.
First Morison saw a header blocked at point-blank range, before Anthony Pilkington headed inches wide with Al Habsi at full stretch.
Diame replaced McCarthy with five minutes remaining - and he could have put Wigan ahead with his first touch.
Maloney again was the insigator down the left, and his pull-back had ‘tap in’ written all over it.
However, from eight yards out, Diame volleyed into the ground - only to see the ball loop over the bar with Ruddy well-beaten.
Latics were continuing to pile forward at every opportunity, knowing just how valuable the extra two points could be come the end of the season.
But they were indebted to Al Habsi for keeping the scoreline level in the final minute, the Oman No.1 pulling off a stunning save to keep out a cracking downward header from Morison.
As the referee’s assistant indicated there would be five added minutes, Latics had a couple of great chances to score what would surely have been the winner.
Moses’ cross was overhead-kicked just wide by Rodallega, with most inside the ground fearing it was destined for the top corner.
And Diame then led a three-on-two break but, with Rodallega and Maloney with him, opted to shoot and dragged his shot well past the far post.
Norwich: Ruddy; Naughton, Whitbread, Ward, Drury; Surman, Crofts, Hoolahan, Fox; Holt, Jackson.
Subs: Steer, Martin, Johnson, Morison (for Holt, 59), Pilkington (for Surman, 70), Bennett (for Crofts, 69), Wilbraham.
Latics: Al Habsi 8; Alcaraz 8, Caldwell 8, Figueroa 8; Boyce 7, McCarthy 8, McArthur 8, Beausejour 6; Gomez 6, Moses 8; Rodallega 7.
Subs: Kirkland, Stam, Watson, Maloney (for Gomez, 56) 8, Diame (for McCarthy, 85), McManaman, Di Santo.
Star Man: Shaun Maloney - Only played less than half the game but provided the inventive spark that’s been missing for much of the season.