Fletch strikes again in home win.
Stuart Vose at the Stadium of Light
Steven Fletcher was Sunderland's hero again as his fifth goal of the campaign secured victory over Wigan.
The striker, who has netted in every league game he's played in this season, extended his remarkable scoring record to lengthen Sunderland's unbeaten start to 2012-13.
Fletcher was on the spot six minutes after the break, producing a cool striker's finish to steer home James McClean's cross-shot.
The goal came just after Jordi Gomez had seen red for a two-footed tackle and the visitors, impressive in the first half, threatened only infrequently after being reduced to 10 men.
Fletcher deserved his winning goal as he turned in an exceptional all-round performance, giving the Wigan defence a torrid time all afternoon.
His mix of flair and steel was reflected throughout the Sunderland side, who did what they had to do to see off a combative Wigan outfit.
Having drawn their first four league games of the season, Sunderland returned to Wearside looking to build on a midweek win in the cup.
They were boosted pre-match as Adam Johnson passed a late fitness test to take his place in the starting line-up.
But it was Wigan who had the better of the early chances as James McCarthy found time in the box only for Simon Mignolet to block well with his legs.
Seb Larsson blasted wide at the other end, but Mignolet had to be sharp again on the quarter-hour with a fine save which proved to be a key moment.
A goal looked inevitable when Arouna Kone met Jean Beausejour's early cross just four yards out, but the Belgian spread himself and somehow managed to block the shot at point-blank range.
Having ceded early ground, Sunderland responded well and nearly grabbed the lead just before the half-hour.
Larsson's dangerous free-kick looked like it would creep low inside the near post as it flashed through a crowd of players, but Ivan Ramis was in the right place at the right time to block the ball on the line.
Wigan scrambled clear to concede a corner and from Larsson's kick, the talismanic Fletcher rose highest at the near post to head inches wide with keeper Ali Al-Habsi beaten.
James McCarthy rounded out the first period with a long-distance blast just past the post, but his side's fortunes were turned on their head during a breathless start to the second half.
Just three minutes had elapsed when Danny Rose was flattened by a wild challenge from Gomez, who clearly used both feet as he slid in from the side.
Referee Howard Webb went straight to his pocket to produce the red card – and the trangression was to cost Wigan dearly as Sunderland grabbed the lead just three minutes after Gomez had trudged down the tunnel.
McClean's driving run down the left had the visiting defence backtracking and when his attempted shot was deflected to the back post, there was Fletcher to sweep the ball into the net.
Incredibly, the Scottish international has scored with all five of his shots on target this season and showcased all his guile and craft to direct McClean's deflected effort goalwards.
With confidence coursing through their veins, Sunderland almost helped themselves to a quick-fire second when Sessegnon bought a yard of space in the box and forced Al-Habsi to turn his snapshot behind.
Then Gardner's rising drive from the resulting corner had the Wigan keeper concerned but flashed just over the bar.
It looked as if the hosts would run riot as the quick-thinking McClean slung an early delivery across the face of goal only for Sessegnon, making a run from deep, to miss the ball by inches.
But to be fair to the ten men of Wigan, they didn't give up and Sunderland had to fight all the way to the end.
The visitors failed to threaten in the closing stages, though, with a wild effort from sub Franco Di Santo the closest they came to fashioning a response.
McClean headed off-target at the other end while David Vaughan, on as a substitute, saw a late shot deflected wide.
And five minutes of added time were comfortably navigated as Sunderland's unbeaten start to the season goes on.
- Yellow McClean
- Johnson (Vaughan)
- Yellow Fletcher
- Figueroa Yellow
- Boyce (McManaman)
- Caldwell Yellow
- McCarthy Yellow
- Maloney (Di Santo)
- McArthur (Miyaichi) Yellow
- Gómez García-Penche Red
- Di Santo Yellow