These are the games Tottenham are meant to lose. A long way northagainst physical opponents on one of the worst playing surfaces in thehistory of the Barclays Premier League, these matches are meant toexpose the southern softies in Harry Redknapp's side.
But after they had finished slogging it out in the DW Stadium mud, it was Spurs who stood victorious. Deserving winners and unlikely occupants of fourth place in the table that changed hands three times on Sunday.
It could have been very different had referee Alan Wiley not allowed Jermain Defoe to stay on the pitch following an ugly two-footed challenge on Gary Caldwell, and then his assistant Jeremy Simpson allowed the England striker's goal to stand when he was offside.
Super sub: Pavlyuchenko (left) celebrates scoring the first of his double
Furious Wigan felt Tom Huddlestone was also fortunate not be sentoff before Defoe's replacement Roman Pavlyuchenko came on to score twogoals and send another, less contentious, message to his manager in aweek when the Russian criticised Redknapp over his treatment sincejoining the club for £14million 18 months ago.
Even in victory, the Spurs boss could not resist a veiled dig atPavlyuchenko's work ethic. He said: 'Pav's got ability and when hewants to play and wants to work, he's a good player. Technically he'stop class, and the fans love him. It was good to see him come off thebench and grab two.
'I said today the whole country is going to be looking at us and asking if we're a soft touch, but we rolled our sleeves up.'
Asked if he was concerned that Defoe's opening goal was offside, Redknapp joked: 'I won't sleep tonight!'
Roberto Martinez failed to see the funny side, however, and it waseasy to sympathise with the Wigan manager. After tangling with Caldwellby the touchline in the 23rd minute, Defoe responded with an awfullunge at the defender and then shoved his victim in the chest with bothhands.
Determined: Pavlyuchenko beats Wigan's Maynor Figueroa to the ball to net his first
It was worthy of a red card. Wiley, who missed Patrick Vieira inmidweek kicking Glenn Whelan in the groin, did not even show a yellow.
Defoe had already hurt Wigan enough this season after scoring fivegoals when Tottenham won 9-1 at White Hart Lane in November, but hemade the most of his lucky escape by scoring his 22nd of the seasonfour minutes later.
Wiley got it right this time by playing on when Hendry Thomasflattened David Bentley in midfield, and Niko Kranjcar released GarethBale on the overlap.
If there is any benefit whatsoever in having rugby league markingson a football pitch, it makes offside decisions even clearer, butassistant Simpson failed to spot Defoe more than a yard offside as heturned Bale's low cross past Chris Kirkland in the 27th minute.
'It leaves a bad taste,' said Martinez. 'With the condition of thepitch, the first goal was going to be paramount. It's a game of errorsand you have close calls, but to get someone one-and-a-half yardsoffside when the linesman has got nobody in his vision is verydifficult to explain. It should have been disallowed. They didn'texplain why. I tried to have a word at half-time but they didn't seemto be in control of that area.
Off the mark: Defoe scores Tottenham's first
'I don't like to blame the referee but today it's very difficult toexplain his performance. It's a feeling of clear frustration.'
It was of no consolation to Martinez that Defoe was finally bookedfor encroaching at a free-kick five minutes before half-time afterbeing warned by Wiley not to do so.
He had already become a target for the Wigan fans, and Spursassistant boss Kevin Bond admitted that one of the reasons Defoe wasreplaced by Pavlyuchenko was because they feared a red card.
MATCH FACTSWIGAN ATHLETIC (4-5-1): Kirkland 6; Melchiot 5, Caldwell 7, Scharner 6, Figueroa 6; N'Zogbia 7, Diame 6, Thomas 5 (Moses 56min, 6), McCarthy 6, Rodallega 5; Moreno 6 (Sinclair 76, 6).Booked: Diame, McCarthy.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-4-2): Gomez 6; Corluka 6, King 6 (Bassong 52, 6), Dawson 7, Bale 8; Bentley 7, Huddlestone 6, Palacios 7, Kranjcar 6 (Modric 69, 7); Crouch 6, Defoe 6 (Pavlyuchenko 73, 7).Booked: Bentley, Defoe, Dawson, Huddlestone.
Man of the match: Gareth Bale.
Referee: Alan Wiley.
The change came in between two challenges in quick succession byHuddlestone; the first earned a booking for holding back CharlesN'Zogbia, and the second was a late challenge on James McCarthy thatwent unpunished.
Martinez added: 'I felt Huddlestone and Defoe did enough to be sentoff. Defoe had both feet off the ground and it's clearly a red card.Huddlestone gets a yellow card and the next challenge is also worthy ofa yellow card. I don't think that we got the same treatment. Littlechallenges from our side were punished straightaway with a booking, butthey weren't treated in the same manner.
'There are that many decisions, and there is nothing stopping the referee from making the right judgment.
'The 3-0 scoreline doesn't reflect the performance at all.' Kirklandcame out to block from Crouch, and Luka Modric hit a post with afirst-time shot before he set up the second goal for Pavlyuchenko inthe 84th minute, slipping the ball through for the Russian, who heldoff the challenge of Maynor Figueroa to score.
Pavlyuchenko netted another in the third of four minutes of addedtime, directing the ball home from a tight angle despite Figueroa'sefforts after Kirkland had saved his header. Wigan had their chances,too.
The best of them saw Heurelho Gomes turn over Hugo Rodallega'srising right-foot effort from the edge of the area, but a lack ofattacking threat - just three goals in seven games - is damaging theirchances of staying in the top flight.
For Redknapp and Spurs, riding high in fourth and dreaming of the Champions League, it could not look much better.
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