Aston Villa 0 Wigan 2
A second-half brace from Luis Antonio Valencia handed Wigan the win they needed to confirm their Barclays Premier League status as Aston Villa failed to keep the pressure on Everton in the battle for the UEFA Cup.
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The Latics went into the match knowing results elsewhere could see them safe regardless of the score at Villa Park but Valencia's double, the first deflecting heavily off Wilfred Bouma, meant survival was assured under their own steam.
Villa, only Wigan's second away scalp of the season after Derby, had much the better of the first 45 minutes but their lack of precision in the final third could cost them dear in the race for fifth place.
It was also a disappointing result for Villa stalwart Olof Mellberg, who was passed fit after a bout of illness to make his final appearance at the ground before his summer move to Juventus.
The hosts nearly had a stroke of fortune in the third minute when an attempted Wigan clearance ricocheted wickedly and played in Ashley Young.
But Paul Scharner was alert enough to put in a vital tackle and send the ball back to a grateful Chris Kirkland.
Gabriel Agbonlahor then battled bravely with Titus Bramble to win possession for Villa in a promising position but John Carew strayed offside before receiving Gareth Barry's pass.
Barry's future had been the subject of much debate this week, with Villa boss Martin O'Neill criticising Liverpool's public pursuit of the England man, but the Holte End were soon loudly roaring their support for the midfielder.
Agbonlahor was set free by a long Scott Carson kick in the 11th minute, and when he went jinking down the left flank, it took a combination of Emmerson Boyce and Wilson Palacios to stop him.
Palacios then turned aggressor, teasing a foul out of Mellberg on Villa's right-hand side, but the burly Swede soon made amends with a fine sliding block after 15 minutes.
The unlikely figure of Zat Knight had a good chance when he met Young's curling free-kick at the far post, but he could not hit the target.
Barry's concentration started to waver somewhat as he first launching a volleyed effort high and wide, and then rolled the ball straight to Scharner when he had options on both sides.
He had the chance to make amends after 27 minutes, but when presented with a good headed chance eight yards out, he was penalised for climbing on Scharner.
Villa were pressing but could not find the end result, with Agbonlahor guilty of scuffing his left-footed shot minutes later.
Wigan's strategy, meanwhile, consisted largely of looking for the willing Emile Heskey with high balls, but he and strike partner Marcus Bent found little room for manoeuvre in the home defence.
A set-piece nearly provided the breakthrough.
After 33 minutes, Jason Koumas whipped in the game's first corner, and after Bouma failed to clear, Bent fired wide from close-range.
Bent, off-balance when the chance fell his way, did not get a full connection on his shot but it was a timely warning against complacency.
A drilled 30-yard effort from the same player five minutes later merely underlined the point.
Villa were stung into action and Agbonlahor saw his close-range header tipped onto the crossbar by Chris Kirkland in the aftermath of another messy corner.
After a scrappy start to the second period, Barry sought to reassert himself on the game.
He first played in the lively Agbonlahor with a perfectly-weighted pass down the right before taking the return pass and forcing Kirkland to palm the ball over the crossbar when his lofted cross sailed dangerously towards the top corner.
But it was the away side, against the odds, who took the lead.
Having received a smart pass from Koumas and with the angle tight, Valencia took what looked to be an ambitious punt at goal. His shot ballooned off the foot of the onrshing Bouma and flew agonisingly over the stretching Carson.
The goal appeared to fortify some of the Latics players, Boyce in particular standing strong against a typically mazy surge by Young - the only outfield player not from a 'big four' club to be named in the PFA Team of the Season.
The momentum stayed with Steve Bruce's side, and when Heskey's neat header released Valencia, it was soon 2-0.
Two good touches took the Ecuador international clear of Nigel Reo-Coker - shuffled into an unfamiliar right-back slot to accommodate the introduction of Patrik Berger - and he beat Carson with a fierce shot at his near post.
Agbonlahor went close again, once more with a header, but Valencia will be disappointed not to have claimed his third after 70 minutes as the home defence crumbled.
By now, Heskey was leading the line and retaining possession perfectly against a defensive line further weakened by the removal of Bouma for Marlon Harewood.
Harewood nearly made his presence felt 11 minutes from time, muscling his way into space on the right of the penalty area but his firmly-struck effort screwed wide.
Aston Villa Carson, Mellberg, Laursen, Knight (Berger 60), Bouma (Harewood 69), Young, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Barry, Carew, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Salifou, Routledge.
Wigan Kirkland, Boyce, Bramble, Scharner, Kilbane, Valencia, Brown, Palacios (Skoko 90), Koumas, Heskey (Sibierski 89),Bent (King 77).
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Taylor.
Goals: Valencia 52, 63.
Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).