Yohan Cabaye picked a fine time to score his first goal for Newcastle United as the Frenchman's 80th-minute strike sunk gutsy Wigan Athletic at St James' Park, sealing a late 1-0 victory.
The summer signing from Lille curved home a knock back by substitute Sylvain Marveaux to finally end the resistance of the visitors, who have now lost six games in a row. Meanwhile, Alan Pardew's men continue to ride high after stretching their unbeaten Premier League start to nine games despite struggling for much of the afternoon.
The Magpies may have been forgiven for expecting an easy day as Roberto Martinez's men ventured north on the back of five straight losses and a reputation for defensive mishaps. But, with Hugo Rodallega starting his first game after a month out with a knee injury, Martinez's men were far from dominated in the early stages.
Rodallega had a first minute shot blocked by Fabricio Coloccini and Mohamed Diame also struck the legs of former Latic Ryan Taylor in a lively opening.
Wigan should have gone ahead in the fifth minute when Rodallega headed down for Victor Moses to volley a rising shot which was superbly tipped away by Tim Krul. And, Wigan had another glorious chance in the 15th minute when David Jones sent Rodallega galloping clear but the striker hit his right-footed shot wide of target.
At the back, Antolin Alcaraz continued to make up for his nightmare against Bolton Wanderers last week with a superb saving tackle to deny Leon Best a shooting chance in the Latics box.
Newcastle had their first clear chance in the 33rd minute when Best met a Jonas Gutierrez cross with a bouncing shot in front of goal which was superbly parried by Al Habsi. And five minutes before half-time Pardew's men had another chance when Ben Watson barged Gutierrez on the edge of the box and Taylor curled the resulting free-kick just wide.
Newcastle find their stride
The home side made a brighter start to the second half and almost went ahead after 50 minutes when Demba Ba met Taylor's left-wing cross with a flashing header which Al Habsi gathered well. Newcastle were beginning to dominate, but were still struggling to create clear-cut chances as Wigan's much-maligned defence held firm.
Cabaye and half-time substitute Hatem Ben Arfa both had chances blocked in the box in quick succession before Gary Caldwell booted clear. Playing much deeper, the visitors were clearly intent first and foremost on safeguarding a point, with Rodallega given scant support on his rare forays forward.
The frustration was beginning to tell for the home side as Wigan got back in the match, and Albert Crusat was not far from finding the head of Rodallega in the box in the 78th minute. A scything run down the left by Ben Arfa moments later ended in a low shot which was blocked well by Al Habsi as the Magpies made a belated bid to regain the momentum.
And they seized it in style in the 80th minute when Marveaux played the ball back to Cabaye who curled a right-footed shot past Al Habsi from the edge of the box. The visitors still had time to push for an equaliser, but Moses trickled a cross across the face of goal and Diame headed a good 88th-minute chance just wide.