Macclesfield's venture into previously uncharted FA Cup territory should have extended into the fifth-round draw, according to their manager, Steve King.
Never before had the Cheshire club reached this stage and their exit was marred by King's complaints of injustice, after the referee, Roger East, ignored strong claims for a 39th-minute penalty. Román Golobart's muscular challenge on Waide Fairhurst instead led to a corner, and the best chance of taking Wigan back to the DW Stadium was gone.
"It was a stonewall penalty, as blatant as you are going to see and I have left the referee my number so he can ring me and apologise" said King, whose Macclesfield side consistently punched above their Blue Square Premier Division weight. "That's killed our game, and killed our FA Cup dream. Stevie Wonder could see we were worth a replay, at least."
Off the field, Macclesfield were ill-prepared – extra stewards were dispatched from Wrexham and Stockport to help accommodate a 5,800 full house – but on it they edged Wigan for style and endeavour, and threatened to expose the decision by Roberto Martínez to make eight changes from the Wigan side, who had lost a league match to Sunderland seven days earlier.
However, the revamped visitors – missing third-round hero Mauro Boselli, who is contemplating a loan move to Serie A with Palermo – were presented with the chance to take the lead with the noise of the 27-piece brass band still hanging in the air. Jordi Gómez's sweeping crossfield pass caught the Macclesfield full-back Ryan Jackson out of position and Callum McManaman's purposeful surge was crudely halted by Thierry Audel's challenge.
Although Macclesfield's on-loan goalkeeper, Joe Anyon, borrowed from Shrewsbury 24 hours before kick-off, got his right palm to the ball, it still found its way inside his post. McManaman beat Anyon again in the 21st minute, only to witnesssee his drive, following a half-cleared Ronnie Stam cross, flash wide.
Undeterred, Wigan's non-league opponents – adversaries in the Cheshire League back in the 1960s – attempted to add another chapter to their 2012-13 Cup story, with Matthew Barnes-Homer, the two-goal hero in the victory against the Championship leaders, Cardiff three weeks ago, to the fore.
Indeed it was Barnes-Homer, 27 on Friday, who first extended Joel Robles, Wigan's Spanish debutant in goal, with a left-foot shot midway through the first half. Robles, on loan from Atlético Madrid, then held Audel's header at the second attempt but further clear-cut opportunities were not forthcoming despite domination of possession and territory.
So, Wigan, whose only other journey to the fifth round came in 1987, held on, although Martínez humbly conceded: "Macclesfield are the ones that should be getting all the credit."