Wigan 2 Birmingham 0

  • By: Ben Rumsby, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: October 8 2012, 18:54 BST

Wigan took their biggest step yet towards Barclays Premier League survival and left Birmingham sweating over relegation as the visitors self-destructed at the JJB Stadium.

Kelly holds off Heskey.

Ryan Taylor's brace - doubling his top-flight tally - and the foolishness of captain Damien Johnson sealed Birmingham's downfall.

With his side trailing 1-0 late in the first half, Johnson launched into an ugly two-footed lunge on Kevin Kilbane and was rightly sent off.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish will be relieved Bolton were also beaten today, maintaining his side's four-point cushion above the bottom three.

For Wigan, that gap is now eight points, enough to all but guarantee they will start next season in the top flight.

Separated by just a point immediately above the drop zone before start of play, today's match was arguably the most important of the campaign for these two sides.

There was also the added spice of Latics boss Steve Bruce's reunion with the club he managed for almost six years before November's acrimonious departure.

Martin Taylor returned to the Birmingham line-up for the first time since his horror tackle on Eduardo.

The centre-back had not featured since breaking the Arsenal striker's leg on February 23.

Wigan also made only one alteration for a match that would keep the winners on course for survival, Wilson Palacios playing against the side with whom he began the season.

After an opening 10 minutes bereft of quality, a Latics free-kick eventually led to the first chance of the game.

Blues failed to clear Ryan Taylor's centre and Mario Melchiot's cutback was blazed over from eight yards by Marcus Bent.

Wigan then began to exert some pressure, which told as quickly as the 15th minute.

Antonio Valencia showed great vision to pick out Ryan Taylor at the far post following a superb jinking run down the right.

On his weaker left foot, Taylor confidently finished first time into the bottom corner - his first goal since Boxing Day.

Valencia was rampant and Wigan could have been 2-0 up when his cross-cum-shot was spilt by Maik Taylor.

But the rebound arrived too quickly for Bent to react and Heskey saw his follow-up blocked.

Birmingham's defending was bordering on the shambolic, Kilbane allowed to burst from midfield and Heskey given plenty of time to strike a loose ball left-footed at Maik Taylor.

Birmingham's first shot on target was a 25th-minute Gary McSheffrey effort straight at Chris Kirkland from 20 yards.

The visitors were second best in every area, Bent reacting quickest to another Melchiot cutback before seeing his finish blocked.

With less than 10 minutes of the half remaining, the game was interrupted by a major flashpoint thanks to Johnson's moment of madness.

Johnson, who threw his armband off in disgust as he left the field, got plenty of the ball but the recklessness of his tackle on Kilbane warranted his ejection.

Kilbane nearly exacted revenge immediately from the restart, the Irishman sending a loose ball crashing against the inside of the post from 20 yards.

With little over a minute of the half remaining, Melchiot and Bent combined again, the former Blues full-back's cross steered a foot wide by the forward.

There was still time for the visitors to almost snatch an equaliser, the in-form Mauro Zarate narrowly off target from the edge of the area.

Heskey could have doubled Wigan's advantage straight from the restart, the England striker shrugging off his marker and firing a left-foot half-volley wide.

It was a further 10 minutes before the second goal arrived via one of the untidiest goals of the season.

Valencia's cross was nodded off target by Bent but Wigan somehow stopped the ball going behind and it found its way back to the goalmouth.

A major scramble ensued, which Ryan Taylor won to force the ball over the line.

Martin Taylor prevented a third goal when he got back on the line to clear Bent's lob after his keeper had come rushing out.

Shortly past the hour mark, Kirkland was nearly caught out by a Mikael Forssell back-header which landed inches wide.

McLeish then threw on Mehdi Nafti and Cameron Jerome with less than half an hour remaining.

The new arrivals made little impact, with Wigan coming closer to a third than their opponents did to a comeback.

Valencia man of the match by a mile, continued to torment the visiting defence and Josip Skoko should have found the target from the winger's low cross.

Bruce permitted match-winner Taylor his own standing ovation by replacing him with six minutes remaining and no-one would have argued had Valencia been afforded the same luxury.

Teams:

Wigan Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Boyce, Kilbane, Valencia, Skoko (Figueroa 90), Palacios, Taylor (Sibierski 85), Bent, Heskey (King 88).

Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Hagen.

Goals: Taylor 15, 55.

Birmingham Maik Taylor, Kelly, Martin Taylor (Parnaby 72), Jaidi, Murphy, Larsson, Muamba, Johnson, McSheffrey (Nafti 63), Zarate, Forssell (Jerome 67).

Subs Not Used: Doyle, O'Connor.

Sent Off: Johnson (37).

Booked: Murphy, Jaidi.

Att: 17,926

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).