Newcastle reclaim top spot in Championship with victory at Wigan
Rafael Benitez's Newcastle returned to the top of the Championship with a 2-0 victory over struggling Wigan at the DW Stadium.
A first-half goal from former Latics midfielder Mohamed Diame was added to by a strike from substitute Christian Atsu after the break as the Magpies displaced Brighton again following the Seagulls' win at Blackburn on Tuesday.
It had been a similar scenario when Brighton won last Friday and, while Newcastle responded with a 4-0 success on that occasion, this was less spectacular against the lowest scorers in the division, whose 16-goal total is the same as Dwight Gayle's own haul for the campaign.
Nevertheless, it was a case of taking care of business for Benitez's side at a venue where they have traditionally struggled, having lost on seven of their previous eight visits.
Without a goal in four home league games, Latics boss Warren Joyce handed Will Grigg his first start since he became boss but it was no surprise to see an unchanged Magpies team boss proceedings from the off.
Diame fired a warning shot that Jussi Jaaskelainen pushed out while Gayle's overhead-kick went harmlessly wide from Yoan Gouffran's cross.
When the hosts did create an opening, as they did when Yanic Wildschut's burst down the right saw him beat three defenders, neither Grigg nor his team-mates could reach the six-yard box to apply the finish.
Joyce was forced to rethink his options down that flank after Luke Garbutt picked up an injury so Andy Kellett, a left-back like the man he replaced, had to come in on the right side of defence.
Yet it was on the opposite side of the pitch where the visitors broke for the 26th-minute opener as Diame struck against the club with whom he spent three Premier League seasons from 2009.
Shaun MacDonald could not prevent him from striding to the edge of the box, where Diame collected a return pass from Isaac Hayden, held off both Stephen Warnock and Craig Morgan, and rolled past Jaaskelainen.
The ex-Wigan midfielder's hands went up in apology rather than celebration, but it was the three home defenders he out-muscled too easily who should have been saying sorry.
Newcastle remained untroubled, with Jonjo Shelvey a class apart, but they lacked the drive to push for a second goal which would have put them further in charge against a Latics side unable to offer much in an attack.
Benitez's men were twice nearly gifted another before the break, though, as Kellett almost headed in Shelvey's cross and Jaaskelainen missed a clearance from a corner, with the ball going between Ciaran Clark's legs.
Joyce's side were improved after the break and Grigg twice had headed opportunities, the second of which was flicked wide from a near-post corner delivered by Michael Jacobs.
With the high-flying Magpies showing little interest in snatching a second, Wigan grew in confidence and their best chance fell to Kellett after Warnock's low cross came to him at the back post, with Karl Darlow able to push the attempt around his post.
Shortly after, Benitez introduced Atsu, one of the army of Chelsea loanees plying their trade away from Stamford Bridge, and his 78th-minute strike sealed the success.
Gouffran had four options when he centred from the left and though Diame was unable to make any contact with the cross, it came to Atsu, who had time to steady himself and blast beyond Jaaskelainen.