Newcastle United climbed away from the relegation zone as Senegal striker Demba Ba scored twice to inspire a 3-0 win over 10-man Wigan Athletic at St James’ Park on Monday.
Alan Pardew’s side ended a dismal run of four successive Premier League defeats thanks to Ba’s first-half double and referee Mike Jones’ controversial decision to send off Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa.
Figueroa was dismissed for a shoulder charge on Ba that led to the penalty which the former West Ham United star converted to open the scoring early in the first half.
Ba added his second goal soon after and teenage midfielder Gael Bigirimana completed the rout as Newcastle cruised to their first win in eight games in all competitions and moved five points clear of relegation.
The only downbeat note for Newcastle was a hamstring injury to Ba that forced the forward off in the closing minutes.
Wigan have now lost four of their past five matches and lie only two points above the bottom three.
Pardew had overseen just one win in nine league matches since signing his new eight-year contract with the club in September.
“It’s been difficult for the players and staff and it was nice to get a break tonight,” Pardew said. “I think it was a penalty. When the defender is coming across the striker and he’s got a goal chance the referee has got a tough decision.”
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez said: “It became a very difficult game after 10 minutes. The penalty was a big decision and you need to be certain. Both players challenged for the ball. You expect our defender to be strong. To end up with a penalty and a red card is harsh.”
Newcastle needed a fine save from Tim Krul in the opening minutes to avoid a nightmare start as the goalkeeper palmed away a long-range drive from Franco di Santo.
However, before Wigan could capitalize on a bright opening, Pardew’s side took the lead in the 13th minute in the game’s defining moment.
Ba played a pass through for strike partner Papiss Cisse and the Senegal international was bundled over by Figueroa as he burst into the penalty area.
Jones awarded a penalty for the collision and then compounded Wigan’s misery by sending Figueroa off.
Ba made sure Newcastle took full advantage as he drilled a perfect penalty low into the corner of Wigan ’keeper Ali al-Habsi’s goal.
Newcastle pushed home their numerical superiority just eight minutes later when al-Habsi could only parry Davide Santon’s powerful strike into the path of Ba, who prodded into the net from close range.
Wigan were fortunate not to be reduced to nine men when Gary Caldwell, who had already been booked, fouled Ba on the edge of the penalty area.
Sylvain Marveaux, restored to the Newcastle team in place of the suspended James Perch, went close to adding a third with a free-kick.
French midfielder Marveaux threatened again soon after halftime when a fine run took him through the heart of the Wigan defense, but his shot was straight at al-Habsi.
Bigirimana took center-stage in the final half as the Burundi-born 19-year-old bagged his first goal for Newcastle with a superb curling effort from the edge of the area.