Uwe Rosler kept hold of his 100% domestic record as Wigan manager after his side produced a first-half double to condemn Nigel Adkins’ Reading to their second home loss in succession at the Madejski Stadium.
After a scrappy and largely forgettable opening, the visitors burst into life and took the lead in the ninth minute. After a brief period of Reading pressure, James McArthur led a swift break downfield.
The Scottish international laid the ball left into the path of the onrushing James McClean, whose own effort was blocked. Chris McCann was first to react to the rebound, coolly lashing home past the despairing Alex McCarthy.
Reading had little time to process that goal, however, as Wigan quickly added a second. Alex Pearce miscontrolled a ball deep inside his own half and was powerless to prevent Manchester United loanee Nick Powell, who netted a sublime acrobatic finish during the second half of the Latics’ 3-2 win over Bolton last weekend, from taking possession and firing into the back of the net for his eighth goal of the season.
The home crowd, who had seen their side concede a similar quick-fire double during the 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth a fortnight ago, were understandably unimpressed. The collective mood certainly did not improve as the first 30 minutes progressed, as Reading were slow and ponderous in possession and failed to create even a half-chance to dampen the growing animosity.
The visitors were content to sit back somewhat after their second goal, with a speculative effort from McCann their only further sight of goal prior to the half-hour mark.
Reading briefly rallied for the next few minutes. Pavel Pogrebnyak forced a good save from Ali Al Habsi with a fierce effort from the left-hand side of the penalty area and Kaspars Gorkss nodded the resulting corner wide.
The big Russian was involved again just two minutes later, showing several nice touches before laying the ball into the path of Billy Sharp, who saw his goalbound effort deflected wide.
That was as good as it got for Adkins’ side in the first half, though, with boos ringing out around the Madejski Stadium as the team trudged back to the dressing room.
There were three changes at the break, with Reading replacing makeshift left-back Shaun Cummings with Jordan Obita and Rosler introducing Will Keane and Jordi Gomez at the expense of Powell and Callum McManaman.
McCann almost gifted the Royals back into the game six minutes into the second half. His tug on right-back Chris Gunter was hardly subtle and was immediately deemed a penalty by referee Gary Sutton. Sharp confidently stepped up to take the spotkick but saw his woeful effort sail well over the crossbar.
Substitute Gomez, who notched hat-trick for Wigan against Reading at the DW Stadium last season, then nearly put the game to bed but his curling 25-yard effort flew agonisingly wide of McCarthy’s left-hand post.
The Spaniard went close once again shortly after the hour-mark, but this time he saw his effort saved in rather unorthodox fashion by the legs of McCarthy.
Evidently sensing the mood around the ground and the need for decisive action, Adkins reacted with a brave decision to bring on Garath McCleary for centre-back Alex Pearce, leaving Reading with just two natural defenders on the pitch.
Such a bold move almost paid dividends however, as the dangerous McCleary saw a fizzed low cross deflected golabound. Al Habsi, though, was on par to parry.
Just a minute later, Reading finally got their reward. Danny Guthrie, restored to the side after missing the 1-0 win over Huddersfield due to suspension, floated in a superb cross that was finished emphatically by the head of Pogrebnyak.
With a renewed sense of urgency and vigour that was curiously lacking in the first half, Reading largely dominated the subsequent exchanges as they frantically searched for an equaliser.
Despite retaining the ball for long periods, they struggled to carve out many clear-cut chances, with substitute Adam Le Fondre, who replaced the enigmatic figure of Royston Drenthe, firing a low effort across the box that was just too quick for anyone to latch on to.
The Royals’ best chance to level came six minutes from time. Pogrebnyak, who produced another impressive battling display, struck the ball hard from the left but looked on in disbelief as it was somehow kept out by the hand of Al Habsi.
Although they had been totally on the backfoot since the restart, Wigan had the opportunity to make things comfortable in the closing stages with Keane rolling the ball narrowly wide and McCann demonstrating a lack of composure at odds with his first-half finish to fire over the bar when clean through.
Reading continued to pour forward during six minutes of injury time, but Wigan’s resolute rear guard did just enough to give Rosler another valuable three points.