Wigan Athletic 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Two goals and an assist from Michael Jacobs - who also hit the bar - helped Wigan Athletic get off to a winning start to life back in the Championship with victory over Sheffield Wednesday by the odd goal in five.
Jacobs bagged his brace inside 26 minutes - the first via a slight deflection on its way in, the second an emphatic finish from close range - either side of an Atdhe Nuhiu leveller for Wednesday.
Having never previously scored more than once in a game for Wigan, Jacobs came within a lick of paint of notching a hat-trick before half-time, only to see his glorious strike from 25 yards beat Wednesday goalkeeper Cameron Dawson only to strike the crossbar.
It seemed to matter not as Nick Powell opened-up a two-goal deficit on the hour mark after Jacobs had seen a low shot parried by Dawson.
However, a tense finish was ensured when Fernando Forestieri steered home midway through the second period past an exposed Christian Walton.
Latics almost made the game safe with 17 minutes to go when substitute James Vaughan nodded against the bar before, seconds later, seeing a clever flick disallowed for offside.
But Wednesday’s hopes of snatching a point were hampered when Nuhiu was shown a second yellow card right at the death for late challenge on Chey Dunkley, shortly after he’d clattered Sam Morsy in centre-field.
And boss Paul Cook will have been delighted with the way his new-look side - including four debutantes - passed their first test at this level with flying colours.
Two of the newbies - Antonee Robinson and Cedric Kipre - were called into action inside five minutes, showing nimble footwork to snuff out the early threat from Wednesday.
At the other end, nice work from Jacobs down the right saw his cross fly just too high for Will Grigg, with the ball being cleared out to Reece James, whose shot was superbly blocked.
It took only 10 minutes for Latics to break the deadlock, though, with a fantastic 50-yard run down the left from on-loan Everton left-back Robinson leading to Jacobs finding the corner of the net via a Wednesday deflection.
However, Latics were unable to build on their lead, and the visitors equalised with 20 minutes on the clock.
Nuhiu’s first effort beat Walton only to be hacked off the Dunkley, but the Wednesday striker followed up to tuck away from close range.
With both sides looking to attack at every opportunity - and the crowd on the edge of their seats - it was Latics who went back in front six minutes later.
Gavin Massey’s deep cross from the right found Powell, who might have done better with his attempts at a close-range volley.
Fortunately for Latics, his connection went backwards into the path of Jacobs, who fired past Dawson to restore the home advantage.
After Dunkley headed over from a great position, Jacobs almost completed his hat-trick two minutes before the break with a speculative strike from distance that looked in all the way before striking the woodwork.
The home side picked up where they’d left off in the second period, with Massey working a yard for himself and firing towards the top corner, only for Dawson to make a good save.
But the all-important two-goal advantage was opened-up on the hour when a lightning-fast break saw Morsy feed Jacobs, who ignored Robinson on the overlap before seeing his shot parried by the goalkeeper.
Unfortunately for Dawson, the rebound fell right into the path of Powell, who flicked the ball over the scrambling custodian to make it 3-1.
Credit Wednesday for the way they responded, with Sam Hutchinson forcing a great save from Walton within two minutes.
But the on-loan Brighton goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Foriestieri notching Wednesday’s second goal midway through the second period with a tidy finish from 12 yards.
That set up a grandstand finish, with Latics sending on the fresh legs of Max Power and Vaughan for Powell and the impressive Darron Gibson, who received a standing ovation for a very accomplished debut.
Vaughan was quickly into the game, seeing a flick header smack against the bar before converting Massey’s lovely cross from the right, only to turn and see the flag up for offside.
Massey himself forced a brilliant save from Dawson before giving way to returning hero Callum McManaman for the final eight minutes.
And the home side were able to see it through to a successful conclusion, aided right on the 90-minute mark by Nuhiu’s needless second caution for jumping into Dunkley.