Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini admitted his side had been below par after labouring to a 1-0 win over Wigan at the Etihad Stadium.
The Barclays Premier League champions were outplayed for large periods by their relegation-threatened FA Cup final opponents, but snatched victory with a brilliant late Carlos Tevez goal.
Mancini said: "We worked really hard because Wigan played really well and every game we play against them is difficult because they play football and they like to win every game. I don't think we played very well because we were so tired. Only in the last 20-25 minutes we played better. They played very well, they don't deserve to be relegated."
Mancini felt his players were probably still feeling the effects of their energy-sapping FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday. When asked if there may have been a hangover, he said: "Probably yes, only three days. For this reason we played with four, five new players. We spent a lot of energy against Chelsea, (it) was difficult."
All of the five changes Mancini made to his line-up were defensive, including a return for Micah Richards at right-back after six months on the sidelines with a knee injury. Mancini was pleased to see the 24-year-old back in action, but felt he was some way off his best.
The Italian said: "I think he needs to work a lot. I didn't like. I am happy because he came back to play, but it is impossible you play well for 70 minutes. He was tired and it is important he came back to play."
Mancini joked when asked about the gap at the top of the table. City's victory cut Manchester United's lead at the top to 13 points as their rivals drew at West Ham with a controversial equaliser. Mancini, watching a replay of Robin van Persie's goal on a pressroom TV, said: "This is not important, now it is finished. If they didn't score an offside (goal), probably."
Wigan remain in the bottom three, but manager Roberto Martinez is convinced his side will collect the points they need to survive if they maintain such standards. Until Tevez struck, Latics had created the better opportunities with Shaun Maloney, Arouna Kone and Franco Di Santo going close.
Martinez said: "We didn't take the chances, it is as simple as that. I thought we were magnificent from start to finish. We created four very good chances. I don't think many teams come to the Etihad and create four very good chances in open play. Those chances need to finish in the back of the net and that's why we lost the game.
"If we do that in every game, we will get a lot of points. I couldn't be prouder of the performance. We limited them to two shots on target, I don't think many teams have done that. My players deserve huge credit. The performance is exactly what we need."