WIGAN //It was a match with rancour and recriminations but it ended with a reduced chance of relegation. A contentious, controversial game had a cheering conclusion for Wigan Athletic, whose annual attempt at escapology was aided by Arouna Kone's last-minute winner.
And yet his bundled finish, securing Wigan's first home win since November, was almost a subplot.
Newcastle United were doubly aggrieved on an afternoon of injustice. Seconds before Kone struck, Maynor Figueroa had deliberately handled Jordi Gomez's corner in his illegal attempt to decide the game.
"The linesman is looking right at it and all our players reacted," said an irritated Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.
Yet that was not the greatest mistake the officials made. Massadio Haidara's game and season were ended by a shocking tackle from Callum McManaman, one which should have brought his immediate expulsion. Instead, he went unpunished, setting the tone for an afternoon of errors and anger.
"It was an awful challenge," Pardew said.
McManaman and Wigan will contact Haidara to apologise but, while his manager Roberto Martinez said the 21-year-old winger "couldn't be a nicer boy", it was an immediate stain on his reputation.
So, for right and wrong reasons, his full league debut was a memorable affair. The positive came first as McManaman surged forward and chipped a cross that just evaded Kone. When Davide Santon failed to control, it allowed Jean Beausejour to slide a shot between Rob Elliot's legs for his first Wigan goal.
That was admirable from the Merseysider. What followed was reprehensible, an X-rated lunge at Haidara that resulted in the Newcastle defender being stretchered off but not, as it should, the Wigan man being sent off.
Pardew said the referee, Mark Halsey, simply overlooked the incident.
"He apologised to say he missed it," he said. "The pictures speak for themselves. I thought it was a bad challenge and I was 60 yards from the incident."
Newcastle were not assuaged by Halsey's explanation or Martinez's feeling that McManaman "doesn't have a nasty bone in his body". Their fury became clear on the stroke of half time when a fracas broke out as the assistant manager John Carver lost his cool and had to be restrained by the Newcastle defender James Perch and the stewards as he tried to reach McManaman.
"It is not for anyone to take justice into their own hands," Martinez said. The scuffle brought a double dismissal with Carver and Graham Barrow, Wigan's academy coach, sent from the touchline.
It all deflected attention from matters on the pitch, where Shaun Maloney, James McCarthy and McManaman all missed opportunities to double Wigan's lead.
Meanwhile, Newcastle's efforts were impeded by some erratic finishing from Papiss Cisse, but the striker turned provider by finding Santon for the Italian to level in assured fashion.
Then came the dramatic end to a frantic afternoon. Figueroa attempted to punch Gomez's corner in. As the ball bounced around the box, it hit Franco Di Santo flush in the face and fell obligingly for Kone to force it over the line.
"If we got a bit of luck, I think it is what we deserved," Martinez said. Newcastle did not agree.
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