This contest had drifted just beyond the half-hour when the referee Mike Jones' patience finally snapped. Eden Hazard was face down on the turf, crumpled this time by James McCarthy's frantic tackle, but, rather than book the offender, Jones sought an explanation from the captain, Gary Caldwell, for Wigan's apparent strategy to nullify the Belgian. Judging by the panic that gripped the home players whenever the No17 picked up possession, any perceived plan that might have been hatched felt decidedly flawed.
Hazard illuminated this occasion on his Premier League debut, his play eventually fizzling out in a mixture of over-exuberance and fatigue as the adrenaline faded. But if this was the 21-year-old finding his feet, then Chelsea will be salivating over everything that awaits. At £32m the playmaker has not come cheap, and his price tag demands a smooth transition from Ligue 1 to English top flight, but this was a tantalising glimpse of his qualities.
By the time Caldwell had crashed crudely through his opponent's 5ft 7in frame 11 minutes in, earning a booking for the foul, Hazard had already generated his team's two-goal advantage. Wigan coped better with him as the game progressed but the damage had been done.
Better teams than Roberto Martínez's will be troubled by Chelsea's new-look attack this term once the recruits have settled as this set-up brims with guile and invention as the players spring on the counter. This was only a taster of their potential. In fact, everything Hazard delivered here came with the promise of even better to come. There was skill in his collection, his spin away from Ivan Ramis and his visionary pass between retreating defenders to the galloping Branislav Ivanovic, who gathered and converted the visitors' opener 110 seconds into the game. Ramis, his composure drained already by the ferocity of his first taste of English football, was soon lunging in to trip Hazard as he wriggled into the area, conceding a penalty that was dispatched with glee by Frank Lampard.
Hazard's flashes of creativity were delivered with such time and space as were allowed him by accommodating hosts. Arguably more impressive were the scuttling dribbles from deep thereafter once Wigan had caught their breath as the former Lille midfielder, with his low centre of gravity and the ball glued to his instep, defied the flying challenges of opponents. There were also the instinctive inter-plays with Juan Mata, the pair flitting from centre to right, dizzying their markers at will.
Oscar, the £20m Brazil No10, replaced Hazard with 26 minutes to play and, in his first real involvement, seared away from Ramis to fizz a low shot wide of the far post from an unkind angle. This was all too traumatic for the Spaniard. "I brought another guy on who's not bad himself," said Roberto Di Matteo of Oscar's arrival. Quite where he will cram all this talent into his starting lineup remains to be seen, particularly if interest is maintained in Wigan's Victor Moses.
The player might be unsettled by Chelsea's interest – a deal still remains likely before the end of the month – but had been eager to feature here and provided nuisance value aplenty, reminding Chelsea of his pedigree. The Londoners' sporting director, Michael Emenalo, and chief executive, Ron Gourlay, watched on from the directors' box as the former England under-21 international's bursts down the flank, scorching Ryan Bertrand and Lampard on separate occasions, left Chelsea vulnerable even if Wigan lacked the bite to capitalise. Franco Di Santo's prodded attempt beyond Petr Cech, hoofed from the line by David Luiz, was as close as they came when Moses was not involved. Their own attacking reinforcement, Arouna Koné, will need time but did test Cech from the winger's centre.
Martínez could draw encouragement from his team's response to a dismal opening, their resolve admirable even if recovering from their sloppy start always felt improbable against opponents of this calibre. "It couldn't have been a harder test: 2-0 down to the European champions after six minutes," said the Wigan manager. "We could have felt sorry for ourselves but we showed character and I'm proud of my players for that. We were just caught up in the emotion of starting the league and had seven minutes where our hearts ruled our heads. After that we got back to doing what we do."
Hazard is in the process of proving his own capabilities, as Oscar and the injured Marko Marin will be when offered their own opportunities. This team feels refreshed as an attacking unit and, when they click, they will be feared. In their Belgian alone they clearly have a player capable of enthralling and captivating the Premier League.