Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez admitted he was starting to plan for extra-time when Ben Watson scored the goal that sealed one of the great FA Cup final upsets as his underdogs shocked ten-man Manchester City 1-0 at Wembley today.
Martinez's side dominated for long periods against a lacklustre City, who had Pablo Zabaleta sent off for a second booking six minutes from full-time, but the Latics had been unable to make their superiority pay off. Martinez was on the touchline considering his options for the extra period when substitute Watson escaped marker Jack Rodwell to power home a header in the first minute of stoppage-time.
Wigan then survived a nerve-wracking last few minutes before the final whistle triggered an explosion of joy as Martinez and his players celebrated the most unlikely triumph. The Latics are 40 points behind second placed City in the Premier League and could be relegated if they lose Tuesday's trip to Arsenal depending on other results on Sunday.
"This is an incredible moment. We were down at half-time because we played well in the first half and we didn't take our chances," Martinez said. "There was a feeling that we had wasted our opportunity. But these players never feel beaten and we kept going.
"I was thinking about extra-time when the goal went in. The performance was magnificent, we went eye to eye with a great team and deserved to win. Everyone wrote us off before the game, but we were following a dream. You cannot describe the feeling at the moment. My players faced adversity and played with a smile. I am so proud of them."
Watson's winner capped an amazing end to the season for the former Crystal Palace midfielder who had only just returned to action after six months out with a broken leg.
"To come on and score the winner in the FA Cup final is a dream," Watson said. "It's unbelievable. The boys were fantastic and they deserve it."
Martinez also saluted Wigan winger Callum McManaman, who delivered a man of the match display, tormenting City's defence with his clever movement and dribbling. Just seven weeks ago, McManaman was widely criticised for his horror tackle on Newcastle defender Massadio Haidara, but the 22-year-old from Liverpool has bounced back in spectacular fashion.
"Actions speak louder than words, his display was outstanding like we see every day in training," Martinez said. "He's a real diamond of English football. Today he has showed the world what he can do."
McManaman added: "I'm made up. I had a feeling this morning that it was our day. The longer it went on, we had the better chances. Before the game the gaffer said 'treat it like a normal game, don't be afraid'. I still can't believe it."
While Wigan's first ever piece of major silverware is cause for a drink or two, Martinez has already banned any prolonged celebrations as his team have two more crucial matches against Arsenal and Aston Villa looming this week as they try to beat the drop.
"We've got two big games in front of us and we wanted to conserve energy, but it was difficult!" Martinez added. For Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, the victory was the culmination of a bittersweet relationship with the FA Cup.
Whelan suffered a broken leg that effectively ended his career while playing for Blackburn against Wolves in the 1960 final. But his return to Wembley this time was a far happier occasion as he led the Wigan team onto the pitch before kick-off and then watched them make history.
"At the start, secretly I didn't think we could win. I thought we'd fight and we would be close," Whelan said. "You cannot describe what it feels like when you get hold of that FA Cup. It's fantastic. It is repayment for me breaking my leg in 1960."