Wigan Athletic 0 Newcastle 2
Goal-shy Wigan Athletic drew a blank for the fifth home game in a row as Newcastle returned to the top of the Championship with a routine 2-0 victory at the DW Stadium.
A goal in either half from ex-Latics star Momo Diame and substitute Christian Atsu did the damage for Rafa Benitez’s expensively-assembled side.
The closest Latics came was a second-half shot from substitute Andy Kellett that was parried away by Karl Darlow, with top scorer Will Grigg - making his first start under Warren Joyce - seeing a flick header fly inches wide of the post moments earlier.
But other than that it was more of the same as Latics were full of effort and endeavour but worryingly short of a creative spark in the final third.
Latics had been on the back foot from the off, with Newcastle looking hungry to pick up the win that would see them replace Brighton, who went top on Tuesday night, in pole position.
Having soaked up the early pressure, Latics briefly threatened when Michael.Jacobs wriggled his way through, and his cross was only just cut out by a Toon defender.
Within the blink of an eye, the ball was up the other end of the park, and Jussi Jaaskelainen had to get down very quickly to smother a low left-foot shot from Diame.
A succession of solid challenges from Luke Garbutt, Shaun MacDonald and Yanic Wildschut in the space of five seconds showed Latics were following the pre-match advice of manager Joyce and showing Newcastle ‘no respect’.
But the class of the Geordies was there in buckets, and Jonjo Shelvey was next to try his luck, only to direct his effort way over the crossbar.
A lovely run from Wildschut down the right had the crowd in the West Stand on its feet, the Dutchman gliding past three defenders only to send his cross just in front of the advancing Grigg.
But it was encouraging stuff from Latics, and a similarly incisive run from Jacobs, this time down the left, saw the forward’s shot deflect wide for a corner, which was cleared.
Latics suffered a blow midway through the half when left-footed emergency right-back Garbutt limped off to be replaced by another left-back in Kellett, who was making his first appearance of the season after knee ligament damage.
Before the new man could catch his breath, the Toon were in front.
It was a goal of devastating simplicity, which ripped right through the heart of the Latics defence.
Diame outpaced MacDonald before playing a neat one-two with Isaac Hayden.
The ex-Latics midfielder beat Jake Buxton before holding off Craig Morgan, and slipping a cool finish past Jaaskelainen into the bottom corner.
Diame didn’t celebrate the goal out of respect for his former employers, but the damage had definitely been done.
It was almost 2-0 to Newcastle just before the break, when a complete breakdown in communication between Kellett and Jaaskelainen almost resulted in the former heading a harmless cross drifting out for a goal-kick into his own net.
Jaaskelainen made amends for his role in the incident by superbly tipping a Shelvey shot round the round the post on the stroke of half-time, with Latics by far the happier side to hear the whistle.
And the home side came out the stronger after the restart, enjoying their best spell of the game by far.
A Jacobs corner found the head of MacDonald, with the ball sailing just over the top.
And a similar delivery from the same player moments later this time saw Grigg flick a near-post header inches wide of the far post.
Latics created - and squandered - a gilt-edged opportunity to level at the three-quarter mark, when Stephen Warnock did superbly to get to the byline, and drill a delicious cross through the six-yard box.
The ball evaded everyone and made its way to Kellett at the back stick, but the defender could only warm the hands of Darlow with his shot.
From the resultant corner, the ball again found its way to Kellett, whose cross was headed wide by Buxton - but the passage of play received a deserved round of applause from the home faithful.
Dan Burn took over from Morgan for the last quarter, with Atsu also coming on for Newcastle in place of Matt Ritchie.
And the Toon substitute made the game safe 12 minutes from time when he smashed home from the edge of the box after being picked out by Yoan Gouffran.
Craig Davies entered the fray for the last 10 minutes in place of MacDonald, but realistically the game was already beyond a side so chronically lacking goals, especially on home soil.
Davies and Wildschut fired wide in the dying seconds, but Latics could have no complaints whatsoever at the final result that leaves them mired in relegation trouble.