WIGAN Athletic kicked off the new era under David Sharpe in fine style with a real backs-to-the-wall victory at promotion-chasing Norwich.
Just 24 hours after taking over as Latics chairman, Sharpe was in the directors box alongside Jonathan Jackson to see Latics throw themselves a lifeline at the bottom of the Championship.
Kim Bo-Kyung’s second goal in four days was the difference as Latics held on for 82 minutes against a side that huffed and puffed but couldn’t quite blow the door down.
Wigan’s third away win on the bounce reduces the gap to safety to just six points with 11 matches remaining.
And the spirit they showed to hold on to their slender advantage certainly bodes well for the challenges ahead.
The back four were immense, the midfield worked their socks off and the front two were always a threat on the break.
For all their pressure and territorial control, Norwich - on the back of six straight wins - hardly troubled Scott Carson in the Latics goal.
And the hundred or so visiting fans that made the 500-mile round-trip were suitably rewarded for their remarkable loyalty.
Latics could not have wished for a brighter start, going ahead inside eight minutes.
Leon Clarke headed the ball down into the path of Kim, who smashed home from 10 yards into the roof of the net.
It was the South Korean’s second goal in as many games, although this time Latics had virtually the whole game to keep their opponents at arm’s length to secure the spoils.
The initial signs weren’t promising, Latics being given a warning within a couple of minutes.
Martin Olsson’s shot from distance was fumbled by Carson, who thankfully regathered in time before the onrushing City strikers could react.
Cameron Jerome then had a decent shooting chance on the edge of the Latics box, only for Emmerson Boyce to fly across and throw himself in the way, literally taking one for the team.
James McClean’s heart was in his mouth on the 15-minute mark when, after Clarke had been penalised for a foul, the Irishman continued playing and shot for goal.
With nine bookings to his name - and one away from an automatic suspension - he would have been fearing the worst, but was relieved to see the referee show him the benefit of the doubt.
Norwich won a foul in dangerous territory midway through the first half, Clarke going in on Bradley Johnson, but the City man could not take advantage and sent the set-piece well wide.
Latics were almost in again moments later, McClean seeing a volley flying just wide, although the flag was up in any case.
Gary Hooper looked to have worked a shooting opportunity for himself, only to take too long and get crowded out by three defenders.
McClean was perhaps fortunate again to stay out of the book when he committed a foul right under the nose of the official, but Johnson failed to again work Carson and Latics were looking relatively comfortable.
After Jonny Howson had been booked for catching Jermaine Pennant, Martin Olsson lunged in on the same player and was a tad lucky the official elected only to brandish yellow.
Olsson nearly made partial amends at the other end when he crossed towards Jerome, but the header was poor and way off target.
City were forced into a change at the interval, Hooper giving way for Wes Hoolahan who had proved a thorn in the side of Latics in the past.
And it was all Norwich at the start of the second half, with Latics really having to dig in and show they were up for the fight.
Jerome went in high on Jason Pearce, who required treatment to a chest injury, and the City striker - on a final warning from the official - was promptly booked for his next foul on Boyce.
Nathan Redmond’s cross was spooned over by Sebastien Bassong as Latics continued to hold firm, but they were almost caught napping from a rare corner when Norwich broke up the other end and Pearce had to concede a free-kick and a routine booking.
Don Cowie took over from Pennant with 25 minutes to go, but still City remained on top and most of the crowd thought they’d levelled midway through the second period, only for Johnson’s effort to roll just wide after a scramble in the visiting area.
With the crowd increasingly becoming a factor, City won another cheap free-kick on the edge of the area when Hoolahan seemed to fall into Harry Maguire, was was far from impressed at the decision.
Fortunately the free-kick, not for the first time, was over the top from Hoolahan.
Clarke and Marc-Antoine Fortune gave way to Chris McCann and Martyn Waghorn as the 90th minutes approached, with the fourth official’s board showing another agonising five minutes of action.
Fortunately Latics saw them out without alarm, to give their survival hopes a real shot in the arm.
Latics: Carson; Boyce, Maguire, Pearce, Bong; Pennant, Perch, Kim, McClean; Fortune, Clarke.
Subs: Al Habsi, Taylor, Cowie (for Pennant, 65), McCann (for Clarke, 87), Ojo, Waghorn (for Fortune, 87), Mckay.
Norwich: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson; Redmond, Howson, Johnson, Dorrans; Hooper, Jerome.
Subs: Rudd, Cuellar, Andreu, Hoolahan (for Hooper, 46), Garrido, Murphy, Morris (for Redmond, 77).