Demba Ba and Newcastle the beneficiaries as Wigan see red

Two goals from Demba Ba, much improved performances from a pair of previous underachievers and three stress-relieving points helped erase the frown lines creasing Alan Pardew's forehead.

Assisted partly by the controversial first-half dismissal of Wigan's key defender Maynor Figueroa, Newcastle United's manager must have felt the first mini-crisis of his north-east tenure passing in much the same manner as, earlier in the day, the first snow of winter had melted away from Tyneside's streets.

With Newcastle's hitherto much criticised Sylvain Marveaux and Vurnon Anita forcing their critics into revised opinions, a run of four successive defeats was halted and all the managerial pressure transferred to the shoulders of Wigan's Roberto Martínez. "It's a massive victory," said Pardew. "To withstand four defeats in this city isn't easy."

Newcastle proudly claim to be the world's first carbon-positive football club after offsetting more carbon than they emit. Achieved thanks to, among other things, boiler optimisation, burner management, bore holes and behavioural changes, this feat is all very admirable but hardly cut much ice with fans disgruntled and alarmed by the team's November slump.

Reassurance finally came in the form of Ba's crowd-pacifying ninth goal of the season. It came from the penalty spot, having been awarded after Ba slipped a low pass through to Papiss Cissé and Figueroa brought Cissé down in the area with a shoulder charge.

The Senegal striker arguably collapsed rather easily but the referee, Mike Jones, saw it as the denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity rather than a legitimate challenge for possession.

Out came Jones's red card and off went Figueroa, leaving Ba to beat Ali al-Habsi, who dived the right way, courtesy of a spot-kick squeezed into the bottom corner.

"I think it was a penalty but it was a tough decision for the referee," said Pardew. Martínez disagreed. "It changed the game's dynamic," lamented Wigan's manager. "We'd started brightly and the way the referee interpreted Maynor's challenge was really harsh. For me it was a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge and the ball was divided between the two players, probably three yards in front of them. Cissé didn't have complete control of the ball; it was there to be won."

Unconcerned, Ba soon raised his tally to 10 goals. When Habsi could only parry Davide Santon's shot to the edge of the six-yard box, he pounced, redirecting the rebound beyond the Omani goalkeeper.

No matter that a couple of minutes earlier Mike Williamson's dreadful concession of possession had presented Wigan with an excellent chance to equalise which Arouna Koné proved unequal to, the swagger had returned to Newcastle's game. It maybe helped that they were arranged in the 4-3-3 formation which seems to suit them best.

From a neutral viewpoint Figueroa's dismissal spoilt a contest which, if the early Cheik Tioté shot which swerved fractionally wide and the splendid save Tim Krul made to deny Franco Di Santo were anything to go by, had been shaping up very nicely.

It might have become even more imbalanced had Gary Caldwell, on a yellow card, not been treated with great leniency following an extremely bookable challenge on Cissé shortly before half-time. Let off with a talking to, Caldwell stayed on but Martínez sensibly replaced him with Adrián López.

By now Pardew was hardly missing a raft of injured first-teamers including Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye. If Anita looked strong in midfield, Marveaux, starting in place of Ben Arfa, shone with his penchant for running at Wigan's defence provoking several of his side's best moments.

It was Marveaux's superb run and pass to Gaël Bigirimana, who replaced Tioté at half-time, which prefaced the young midfielder's first Newcastle goal. Receiving possession, Bigirimana advanced, checked on to his left foot and sent an imperious, rising shot arcing beyond Habsi. He thereby became the first player from Burundi to score in the Premier League.

Ba limped off with a tight hamstring but his departure was purely precautionary. Pardew hopes that like Santon, who hobbled off with a tight groin, and Tioté, another player feeling a hamstring, the striker will be fit for Monday's trip to Fulham.

His sole worry is Ba's failure to agree a new contract amid fears the 27-year-old will activate his £7.5m escape clause in January. "Demba's clause is hanging over us," said Pardew. "We've tried to renegotiate it but haven't succeeded yet."

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