Sunderland boss Steve Bruce was a relieved man after seeing his side finally end their winless run at the 10th attempt to climb out of relegation trouble.
Four goals inside 22 second-half minutes saw the Black Cats come from behind to see off Wigan 4-2 and ease them back into the top half of the Barclays Premier League table. Bruce did not conduct the post-match press conference, but number two Eric Black admitted the manager was a happy man when the final whistle sounded.
Asked how Bruce was, Black said: "He's absolutely fine. His heart-rate is down to about 184. It hurts him. He's been a winner all his career and the last eight weeks have been exceptionally difficult."
Black added: "But I have known him a long time and he's a resolute character. He comes in every day and he drives people forward, and he will be a better manager, I am sure, for the eight weeks we have just come through."
Things were looking bleak for Sunderland when, having lost both Phil Bardsley and Danny Welbeck to injury before the break, they fell behind to Mohamed Diame's 52nd-minute thunderbolt.
However, it took them just three minutes to get themselves back on terms when Asamoah Gyan levelled with his 11th goal of the season, a close-range header. The Ghana international, however, departed on a stretcher nine minutes later and was back in the dressing room by the time Jordan Henderson fired the Black Cats ahead with a sweet 66th-minute half-volley.
Wigan were effectively beaten with 17 minutes remaining when, after being felled by defender Antolin Alcaraz inside the box, Benin international Stephane Sessegnon converted from the spot before setting up Henderson for his second four minutes later.
Substitute Franco di Santo reduced the deficit in the final minute of normal time, but he could not prevent the Latics from slipping back into the bottom three. Boss Roberto Martinez, who branded the penalty decision "ridiculous", remained defiant.
He said: "It is quite clear now - we have got 12 points to fight for and we have got two home fixtures. We are really excited. We are looking forward to the next 12 points.
"I have said it before, we are catching up this season. We clicked as a team probably 10 weeks ago and now is the moment we are well aware that we need to get points, and we will make sure we get them."
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