Everton ride luck to snatch win
Tim Cahill's late header secured victory at Wigan Athletic for Everton who extended their unbeaten run in the Barclays Premier League to nine matches. Cahill, who has rediscovered some of his best form in recent weeks, rose in the 84th minute to connect with a corner taken by former Latics defender Leighton Baines. It sealed a deserved three points for David Moyes's side, who continue their push for a place in Europe. For Wigan, the result means they have now won only once in their last eight league matches.
Everton could have taken the lead in the third minute, but Leon Osman was unable to control his shot properly after being teed up by Landon Donovan. Steven Pienaar then tried his luck from the edge of the box after Louis Saha's lay-off, but the South African had his effort deflected over.
Cahill got a head to the resulting corner, but his looping attempt was caught comfortably by Vladimir Stojkovic, who was continuing to deputise in goal for Wigan in place of the injured Chris Kirkland. Stojkovic then got down to block Cahill's close-range shot after the Australian had connected with Phil Neville's pass first time.
The hosts had struggled to settle, but nearly took the lead after 20 minutes when Jason Scotland fed Hugo Rodallega, only for Tim Howard to rush out and parry. Everton then looked to have gone even closer, as Saha's effort hit Cahill and bounced off the post, but the assistant referee flagged for offside. Play switched to the other end again as Rodallega put Scotland through, but the former Swansea striker blazed his effort over the bar.
Philippe Senderos, on his Everton debut, then made a crucial intervention to take a cross away from Rodallega's path as he slid in on Howard's goal. Saha, who was looking for his 100th league goal in English football, was having a busy time of it and his header from Baines's assist brought a fantastic fingertip save out of Stojkovic.
Marouane Fellaini was unable to guide his header on target from the corner that followed, but Everton were steadily taking control of the match once again. The visiting fans screamed for a penalty as Gary Caldwell brought Saha down in the area moments later, but referee Lee Probert waved play on. Scotland sliced a shot over in the 37th minute after stumbling through a crowd of defenders, but as the first half came to an end, it was Moyes's team looking the more likely to break the deadlock.
Only two minutes after the restart Everton had another chance to open the scoring as Mohamed Diame brought Pienaar down just outside the area. Baines, who had scored a late winner against his old club in the reverse fixture, curled the free-kick towards the bottom left-hand corner, but Stojkovic dived quick enough to push the effort away.
Wigan then thought they had won a penalty when Probert whistled after Heitinga barged into Charles N'Zogbia, but it was not to be. And his subsequent free-kick went straight to Cahill. Martinez threw on Paul Scharner in an attempt to give more impetus to his attack and the Austrian managed to get a toe to an Everton clearance in the 65th minute, but his effort rose well over the bar.
Scharner then failed to apply the required finish to a flowing move with 18 minutes to go, firing a shot straight at Howard after Scotland had squared to him. Everton thought they had finally make the breakthrough a minute later as Stojkovic fumbled in the six-yard box to allow Cahill to cross for Fellaini. The tall Belgian had an easy task to prod the ball home from just a few inches out, but his celebrations were soon cut short by a flag for offside.
It was looking as if Wigan might hold on for a point, and they might have had even more when Rodallega struck a free-kick which Cahill deflected away, ostensibly with his hand. But with six minutes remaining it was the Australian who wrapped up victory for the Toffees, crashing home a header from Baines' corner. N'Zogbia almost hauled Wigan level in added time, but his drive came back off the crossbar as the Toffees triumphed.