THE sending-off of substitute Callum McManaman midway through the second half was the turning point as Wigan Athletic ended 2014 on a losing note thanks to a 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
McManaman had only been on the field for nine minutes when he launched into an ill-advised lunge on Claude Dielna, leaving the Owls man in a heap and referee Dean Whitestone brandishing the inevitable red card.
Up to then, in a game of precious few chances, Latics had started to gain the upper hand and were looking the likelier side to score.
They had just had a goal disallowed when a free-kick from Ben Watson was touched in by James McClean only for the offside flag to go up on the near side.
After the sending-off, there was only one winner, and striker Atdhe Nuhiu headed home from close range with 13 minutes to go.
Wednesday could have doubled their lead when Chris Maguire fired over an empty net after Scott Carson had been forced off his line to clear a long ball.
Latics did at least rally at the death, and Shaun Maloney’s late free-kick hit the post and came back out.
But the result sees Malky Mackay’s men enter the New Year second-bottom in the Championship, three points adrift of safety, heading into Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie at Bolton.
FOR A FULL MATCH REPORT, REACTION AND PICTURES, SEE WEDNESDAY’S WIGAN EVENING POST.