What inferiority complex? Wigan may have failed to win any of their 34 previous games against the acknowledged big four teams of English football and lost in recent weeks to Manchester United 5-0, at home, and Arsenal 4-0.
At the 35th attempt, however, local history was made in eventful fashion: a half-time lead soon cancelled out, then quickly restored from a penalty that Petr Cech was sent off for conceding. Chelsea, finishing with nine men after an injury to Ashley Cole, threw everything and everyone forward, only to lose a third goal, their 100 per cent record and the League leadership.
A first defeat since losing at Tottenham under Guus Hiddink back in March brought no complaints from the Dutchman's successor, Carlo Ancelotti. "We played not a good game," he said. "It was the right result. Wigan played better than us, played very good football with good organisation. I was surprised."
His opposite number, the impressive Roberto Martinez, was less surprised. Despite the drubbings from Arsenal and United, he insisted that his team continue to play their football, asking only that they respond better than on previous occasions if they conceded – which was precisely what happened. "We learnt our lessons and carried on with our standards," he said. "No one can say we didn't deserve to win."
Wigan successfully employed the fashionable 4-2-3-1 with outstanding contributions from Hendry Thomas and the clever Mohamed Diame, both sitting back. Charles N'Zogbia and Hugo Rodallega stayed out, hindering the Chelsea full-backs. Jose Bosingwa's crossing was shocking, while he and Cole were often in danger of being caught upfield by swift counter- attacks. The opening goal was nevertheless unexpected, as the visitors had worked four passable chances in the opening 10 minutes.
In the 16th minute, everything changed. After Cech saved from Jason Scotland, Wigan worked a short corner on the left, N'Zogbia coming to collect it without hindrance from any defender and crossing for Titus Bramble to head powerfully in. So slack were Chelsea that they soon allowed N'Zogbia to bring off the same move, Paul Scharner heading down this time for a shot by Emmerson Boyce that Cech had no right to save.
Scotland, looking more Drogba-like than the real thing, laid off a pass for Scharner to hit over the crossbar and was then halted only by John Terry's saving tackle after losing Ricardo Carvalho. The crowd roared their team off at half-time, while the resident DJ played "Let's Hang On To What We've Got".
Wigan proved unable to do so for even 90 seconds of the second half, but within a few minutes of conceding an equaliser they were back in front. First Florent Malouda was wide enough to provide a low cross that Didier Drogba side-footed at goal. He was probably as surprised as anyone to see the ball dribble through Chris Kirkland's legs for a sixth goal of the season. Back came the home side. Rodallega, forsaking his unfamiliar position out on the left, ran on to N'Zogbia's pass in the inside-right channel, knocked it ahead and appeared to be tripped by Cech.
Once Phil Dowd decided on a penalty the red card was mandatory, and after Henrique Hilario arrived to stand between the posts – Florent Malouda was sacrificed – Rodallega smacked the spot-kick past him.
Ancelotti, who had sent his team out for the second half several minutes before Wigan, took the positive approach in putting on Salomon Kalou for Bosingwa; then the desperate approach of Terry in attack for the last frantic period. The five added minutes brought not an Old Trafford-style drama but a third home goal.
Chelsea, with Terry upfield and Cole off injured, were all over the place and hopelessly outnumbered as Maynor Figueroa crossed from the left for a Scharner tap-in. All this in front of a disappointingly small crowd, possibly reflecting a sense of inevitability about the result. Oh ye of little faith.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Thomas