Paul Mitchell was given the nod over Jason Jarrett alongside Tony Dinning in the centre of midfield plus Andy Liddell made his first start since the Worthington Cup win over Manchester City at the beginning of November with Neil Roberts dropping to the bench.
The game itself was all Wigan and they showed their intentions right from the outset as they camped out in the Notts County half of the field.
Lee McCulloch went close to opening the score inside the first 5 minutes when he got on the end of an Andy Liddell cross but his close range header crashed against the upright.
Tony Dinning’s 25 yard rocket was deflected behind by Craig Ireland in the 11th minute and from the resulting corner Jason De Vos sent a header goal bound but on loan Sunderland defender Simon Ramsden was on hand to clear.
The visitors first attack of real note earned them a corner in the 21st minute which was punched clear by Filan who’d been a relative spectator up until that point.
Wigan then broke upfield with Gary Teale’s blistering pace too much for County to handle as he raced ¾ of the way up the pitch.
The Scot sent over a pinpoint cross to the middle of the Magpies’ penalty area to find Nathan Ellington who controlled the ball superbly to set himself up with a shot on goal but with only Steve Mildenhall in goal to beat The Duke somehow sent it wide of the post.
De Vos saw another header narrowily miss the target on the half hour mark as he sent the ball over the bar from a Gary Teale corner.
7 minutes later Lee McCulloch was unfortunate not to score his first goal since the beginning of September when he sent a curling shot heading towards the top corner but the impressive Mildenhall pulled off a magnificent save, sending the ball behind for a corner kick.
Mildenhall was in action again from the resulting corner when he tipped a Matt Jackson close range header over the bar.
Andy Liddell should have done better in the 40th minute when he was sent clear by a Dinning through ball but found Mildenhall equal to his effort with the keeper blocking the striker’s shot.
Liddell returned the compliment when he set up Dinning 20 odd yards out but the midfielder’s shot went marginally over the crossbar.
However the former Wolves star found the target as the clocked ticked into stoppage time.
Andy Liddell did well to find Nathan Ellington, his shot from a tight angle crashed against the far post but TONY DINNING was on hand to fire home the rebound to give Wigan a fully deserved lead to take into the break.
Mildenhall was called upon soon after the restart when he had to punch clear another Gary Teale corner and minutes later a decent Andy Liddell effort was deflected behind for a corner.
Ellington had an attempt blocked by Mildenhall after he had broken free on goal but the Notts County keeper could do nothing about Wigan’s second goal of the afternoon which arrived two minutes later thanks to a JASON DE VOS header which he thumped home from a Gary Teale corner.
The visitors went close to an instant reply moments after the restart when Ian Richardson headed narrowily wide from a Darren Caskey corner.
Wigan continued to dominate the game and looked likely to extend their lead and they did just that in the 73rd minute when ANDY LIDDELL picked his spot and fired home from 20 yards out with a low drive that squeezed in by the post.
Neil Roberts, on for Liddell, almost set up Ellington for a fourth as the game approached stoppage time but the Wigan number 9 with close attention from the County defence could only manage to head over.
A strong hint of offside surrounded the visitor’s consolation goal which came with virtually the last kick of the game but you couldn’t argue with the shot itself from MARK STALLARD which gave Filan no chance as it sailed over him and into the far top corner of goal from the left side of the penalty area.
The goal was the first that John Filan and Wigan had conceded in 9 league games. 855 minutes of football had passed since QPR striker Andy Thomson had breached the Wigan goal line back at the end of October.
With Cardiff and Bristol City both dropping points Wigan saw their lead at the top increased to 9 points but they do have a tough test ahead of them in just over a week’s time as they face third placed Bristol City at Ashton Gate in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
However there is the matter of a FA Cup tie at Stoke City to consider first.